Print bookPrint book

Presentations

This book looks at the process involved in preparing for, scripting and delivering a presentation. It shows you examples of both strong and weak presentations via video and audio file, and analyses the techniques which contribute to a strong presentation in detail.

Site: Solent Online Learning
Course: Succeed@Solent
Book: Presentations
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Saturday, 25 November 2017, 5:35 AM

Giving presentations

Presentations are often part of the assessment for your university coursework. They can also be used as part of a job interview or feature prominently in your future career.

Strong presentations will benefit from:

  • comparing a weak presentation with a strong one
  • having a great presentation style
  • dealing with nerves
  • writing strong content
  • preparing well

You can also watch this video:

Compare a weak presentation with a strong one

Una Varsity, a Solent University student, has been recorded giving a weak presentation and a strong presentation. Watch the two videos and think about what makes one strong and the other weak:

What makes a weak presentation?

Watch a video clip of each of these elements from Una’s weak presentation.

1. Not checking equipment beforehand. 2. Reading from the screen (not looking at the audience).
3. Reading from a script (not looking at the audience). 4. Mumbling; not talking clearly.
5. No apparent structure to the talk. 6. Doesn’t take questions

Weak presentation slides

Weak Presentation Slides (PDF opens in new window)

Study the video of the weak presentation. Try and avoid these mistakes when giving your own presentation.

Common Mistakes (PDF opens in new window)

What makes a strong presentation?

Watch a video clip of each of these elements from Una’s strong presentation.

1. Equipment set up, tested and ready to use. 2. Looking at the audience much more than her (very brief) notes.
3. Calm and confident, with a loud and clear voice. 4. Clear structure to the talk.
5. Takes questions confidently.

Strong presentation slides

Strong presentation slides (PDF opens in new window)

As you watch the video you will probably notice a number of other things that she did very well. Take time to watch Una’s strong presentation again; study what she does in order to express her meaning clearly. This will help you to deliver a strong presentation yourself.

Have a strong presentation style

Presentation style is about how you use eye contact, your body and your voice and  in order to engage with your audience.

Strong eye contact

  • Rehearse your content enough that you don’t need a script.
  • Don't hold a script in your hand to avoid depending on it.
  • Put brief notes on small cards as prompts only.
  • Glance at your notes but continue talking whilst looking at your audience.
  • Make sure your notes are in the correct order before you start.
  • Don’t stare at just one person.
  • Move your eyes naturally around the audience. Avoid scanning the room quickly.
  • If you feel uncomfortable looking people in the face, pick a couple of spots above the audience's heads and glance between them.
  • Avoid reading from the screen: the audience can’t see or hear you if you do this.

Strong body language

A presenter who fidgets with something in their pockets, rattles their keys, shuffles their papers or plays with their hair will almost always deliver a weak presentation.The presenter is distracting the audience and drawing the audience's attention away from their face. They probably feel shy, lack confidence or are feeling nervous.

  • Keep your body facing the audience
  • Don’t clamp your hands rigidly at your sides or cling to the podium
  • Don’t put your hands in your pockets
  • Use your hands expressively to emphasise points
  • Don’t use your hands hysterically (you are not a windmill)
  • If you want to point something out on the screen, turn, point it out and then turn back to the audience to speak
  • Try to relax; don’t be too tense or rigid
  • move around during the presentation but not excessively
  • Don’t pace from one end of the platform to the other
  • Practice!

Strong voice
Mumbling, being too quiet or too quick are all common problems.In the video, Una's second attempt was much better:

  • her voice was clear and loud
  • her delivery was well paced
  • pauses were used to keep the audience with her.

Improving your voice might involve:

  • recording yourself and listening carefully to your own voice – can you do it again, louder and more clearly?
  • rehearsing in front of other people
  • asking them to comment on your voice.

Confidence and good subject knowledge
We always trust a speaker who delivers a presentation with confidence. It is easier to pay attention to someone who does it with conviction.  It also helps if the speaker is prepared to take questions and capable of giving answers (even if that answer is ‘I’m afraid I don’t know.’)

How do you get that confidence?
  • thorough research and thinking time prior to scripting the content.
  • general or further knowledge in the area you are talking about.
  • familiarity with the content of your presentation.
  • practice and rehearsal time.
  • calming your nerves before you begin.
Presentation style (PDF opens in new window)

Deal with nerves

Nerves are natural when you deliver a presentation in front of a group of people. It can be terrifying looking at all those expectant faces waiting for your fascinating words!

Signs of nervousness:

  • Butterflies in the stomach
  • Dry throat
  • Cold sweat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Talking really quickly
  • Unable to look at the audience
  • Going ‘blank’ and forgetting what you want to say
  • Shaky hands (your notes are rustling)
  • Confusion over your notes (what were you going to say?)
  • Mix up with the equipment (why doesn’t this work?!)

Do any of these feel familiar? Unfortunately, nerves don’t really go away – professional stage actors or good lecturers still get butterflies in the stomach and a dry throat when they stand up to talk. It is the way they deal with nervousness and use that nervous adrenaline rush to their advantage which singles them out.

Strategies to help you deal with nerves:

  • Be prepared and rehearsed.
  • Visualisation. For example: imagine that you are delivering your presentation to an audience who is intererested, smiling and reacting positively. Retain this positive image in your mind and recall it just before you deliver your presentation.
  • Press and massage your forehead to energise the front of the brain and speech centre
  • Positive reinforcement.
  • Deep breaths and drink sips of water
  • STAY (or Stop Thinking About Yourself). Remember that the audience is there to receive information and it is your job to deliver this clearly.
Dealing with Nerves (PDF opens in new window)

Be prepared & rehearsed

Be prepared.
If you turn up for a presentation badly prepared you get confused, your notes and slides are a mess and your audience find it hard to follow and lose interest quickly.

If you put in the time and effort to prepare well you know the content well, and know what order you are going to talk in. You have neat, brief notes that you can use as prompts (not a script). That means you can interact with the audience much more and keep them interested. The structure of your presentation is well thought out and clear.

Being well prepared is one of the best ways to reduce nerves. If you can be confident about the content and structure of your presentation, you can be much more confident about standing up and giving it. Do the groundwork and you can give a strong presentation.

Be rehearsed
An actor will always rehearse so they know their lines and how they are going to deliver them. The more times he/she has been through the part, the more confident they are at delivering it well: the more you practise the more confident you will be about giving your presentation.

This video shows a Solent University masters student talking about how he prepares for a presentation:

Rehearsal tips:
  • Read each section out loud as you prepare it
  • Check that you can talk fluently about the content you have prepared
  • Work through any confusions or difficulties you come across in this practice
  • Read through the whole presentation
  • Time yourself to be sure that you are not over or under time
  • Practise slightly different ways of expressing what you want to say
  • Check all of your transitions
  • sound or video record yourself giving the presentation and review how well you did it.
  • Rehearse in front of an audience- Flatmates, classmates, your family 
  • Encourage your rehearsal audience to ask questions at the appropriate time as that will prepare you for handling questions when you do it for real.

Visualisation

Visualisation can be of huge benefit in increasing your confidence and getting over nerves.

Mental transportation to a ‘happy place’ – a sun-drenched beach; sitting in front of a real fire at your parents' house- is a popular visualisation exercise:

  • Close your eyes and visualise the sand underneath or the warmth of fire on your face.
  • Build in your mind the sounds you would hear and the aromas you would smell.
  • Bring yourself into the moment and let yourself relax.

Below is an example of an alternative visualisation you can try. Go through these steps in the days leading up to your presentation and particularly just before you give your talk:

  • Close your eyes and take a couple of long, slow, deep breaths.
  • Picture yourself as you prepare to go up and give your presentation.
  • See that you are feeling calm and confident.
  • Picture yourself being well prepared, with all of your notes ready and your slides set up correctly for you to use.
  • Picture youself standing in front of the audience and beginning your presentation, talking in a loud, clear voice.
  • Imagine your audience listening to you with interest – a sympathetic audience, friendly and encouraging.
  • Picture yourself working through your presentation, remembering all of the points you want to make, presenting clearly and logically.
  • At the end of your presentation there are a couple of questions from the audience which you answer with confidence.
  • As your presentation ends the audience clearly appreciate it. You are happy that you have done a good job.

Remember:

If you can picture this as clearly as possible in your head, you can begin to see it as true – and make it true. Treat it as a little mental rehearsal – you can go through your complete presentation in your mind and that will only serve to improve your ability to carry it out for real..

Positive reinforcement

Voices in your head giving messages - “Oh no, I’m going to make a mess of this”, “this is going to be terrible” and “I’m really bad at giving presentations” - all reinforce negative thoughts. The chances are you’re going to do badly if you allow these voices to be heard.

Give yourself positive messages instead in order to make yourself much more confident about how well you will perform. When you’re more confident, you will do better.

Positive reinforcement messages:

  • “I can do this really well!”
  • “This presentation is going to be great!”
  • “I am really good at giving presentations!”

Remember:

Choose your own messages, ones that are meaningful to you. Repeat them to yourself, especially before you get up to give your presentation.

Deep breaths

Excitement, like nervousness, is caused by adrenaline making your heart beat faster and pump blood around your body. It also quickens your breath (the feeling of being short of breath). If you can slow your breathing down, you can slow down your heart rate and reduce your feeling of nerves:

“Take a few deep breaths.”

Try this exercise in the minutes just before you get up to give a presentation:

  • Take a long, slow deep breath in. Make it as slow and long as you can, and draw in as much air as you can.
  • Hold your breath just for a moment.
  • Let the breath out again, slowly. Breathe out all the way until you have nothing left in your lungs.
  • Pause again just for a moment.
  • Repeat the whole process two or three times until you begin to feel a bit calmer.

Remember:

Take slow, deep breaths.Fast deep breathing will make you hyperventilate and get dizzy.  Just do enough to make yourself feel calmer. If you feel nerves rising again, repeat the process.

Giving presentations checklist

A presentation checklist:

Checklist

  • Prepare concise, useful and interesting content
  • Have a clear introduction, main body and summary
  • Prepare brief notes on cards
  • Develop a good strategy to calm your nerves
  • Set up and check all your equipment
  • Be aware of your audience, maintain eye contact, and watch for interest, attention and questions
  • Speak with a loud, clear voice
  • Take your time, don’t rush, pause occasionally
  • Use brief prompts in your notes and talk naturally around them
  • Invite questions
Giving presentations summary (PDF opens in new window)

Scripting presentations

Presentations should be interesting and persuasive, whether you are reporting on a research project, or making a sales pitch in your future career. The content you write for your presentation is crucial to the success of your presentation.

A strong presentation should:

  • consist of good content
  • use a clear structure
  • be well planned
  • contain slides that work
  • use flash card notes
  • manage group presentations
  • reference correctly

Remember:

You will need to have an understanding of the topics in order to deliver a successful presentation.

Where do you start?

Scripting a presentation is similar to the techniques you might use when working on an essay. However, consider these additional points when scripting presentations:

  • Complete your groundwork first. Where is your content coming from? Are you reporting some research or a process you are already familiar with? 
  • Know the key message of your presentation – what is it that you want to say overall?
  • Mindmap around your key message, and build up supporting ideas.
  • Get detailed guidelines or criteria to ensure you are completely clear about what your tutor wants you to do for this presentation.  If you have any doubt, go and ask your tutor for details.

The key message

Most presentation are aimed at telling the audience something. A good presentation is aimed at telling the audience something that can be boiled down to a key message.

Questions to help you identify your key message:

  • Why are you giving the presentation?
  • What is your aim?
  • What do you want the audience to understand afterwards?
  • If you had to explain your presentation in one statement, what would that be?

Examples of a presentation key message could be:
‘International business communication is made easier through video conferencing.’
‘Fashion designers can use several techniques to increase the impact of a range’
‘This new software will change the way you access research reports’

Remember:

Una Varsity's key message was: ‘ways to give a good presentation’.

Below are some of the techniques she used to reinforce this message.

1. On the title page:

title_slide

2. Stated at the start:

3. Return to key message on summary slide:

summary_slide

4. Presentation clearly connected to key message throughout. Intention is obvious at every point without deviation or digression.

Less is more

Grab the audience's attention quickly

Watching Una Varsity begin her presentation you will see that she speaks clearly and confidently, ensuring that her key message is heard right from the start of the presentation:

She tells you who she is and exactly what she’s going to talk about. This gets the audience's attention, especially if it’s a useful or interesting subject.

Features of a typical presentation are:

  • Spoken communication.
  • Not recorded.
  • Given once (no repeats).
  • Limited time.
  • Limited attention span of listener.

The combined impact of these elements is that you have to get a strong message across clearly and quickly. You need to say big things in a few words so that your message has impact, the audience can easily understand the message, and the message stays with them.

Presentation techniques

  • Be completely clear in your key message from the start;
  • Plan out your main ideas and the key supporting ideas;
  • Refine your language – edit it, trim it and cut it down to the simplest statements;
  • Always look for the shortest, simplest and clearest way to express what you want to say;
  • Leave room for your audience to think it through – if there is anything vital you have missed out they will ask in the Q & A section.

Working with a group

Quite often an assessed presentation is a group task. But how does that work? How can a presentation that is meant to be about a single topic be shared out between a group fairly?

Here are some tips:
  • Do the planning together... all of you, at the same time, in the same room.
  • Make sure you all understand the key message of the presentation.
  • At the planning stage, divide the topic up into logical and equal sections.
  • Divide topics between group members.
  • Brainstorm each topic section together.
  • Carry out research and writing individually.
  • Come back together often to compare and collate your work.
  • If one topic section runs short, start dividing up the work on another section so everyone does equal amounts.
  • Make sure you edit and practise the presentation as a group.

Use a clear structure

Make sure you apply a recognisable and helpful structure in order to deliver a successful presentation.The structure below may seem very simple but this is the best approach when preparing a presentation:

  • Introduction -Say what you are going to say. Helps your audience anticipate what they will hear, which then makes it easier to follow the content and see the connection between the ideas.
  • Main Body - Say it
  • Summary - Say it again. Serves as a recap, drawing all the main points back together again. Reinforces the audience’s memory of what you have said. Reminds them of earlier content that they wanted to ask a question about.

Example: Una Varsity’s slides for her presentation about ‘Giving a good presentation’ here.

Giving a good presentation (PDF opens in new window)

Sections, headings and slides
Think about the presentation slide as the basic element of your presentation structure. Using presentation slides can make it much easier for you to present the structure of your talk. This is similar to Planning -> Structure -> Linking when writing essays.

Tips:
  • Put short clear statements or phrases in your introduction.
  • Use your introduction slide to show the titles of the sections.
  • One bullet point for each section.
  • Repeat these statements as section headings in the main body.
  • If you have a longer presentation, you may need a separate introduction slide for each section.
  • Repeat the introduction in your summary – but rephrase to pick out important elements of what you said in the main body.

Signposts and flag-waving

  • State the connections as if you are waving a flag in the face of the audience. Show it to them; hold it up; make it clear; say it loud.
  • Think about the signposting language you can use to link each part together. When you move from one slide to the next, you should able to use a phrase that shows the connection between the main two.

For example:
"The next main topic I want to explain is..."
"To give you some examples of what I just described, take a look at this..."
"Let’s look at the opposite side of this argument."

For some spoken examples of presentation links click the audio files (.wavs will open in new windows):






Linking expressions (PDF opens in new window)

Plan well

When planning your presentation, keep these questions in mind:

  • What are you giving a presentation about? Keep your key message in mind at all times– something as simple and direct as possible. Make sure every section relates to that key message.
  • What do you want to say? Start from the points you want to make, even if you can’t yet see what links them. Build up your ideas from your research and knowledge until you can make a full picture – succinctly and clearly given.
  • Who is your target audience? It’s important to keep this in mind. In your career you will have different audiences and will need to adapt what you say and how you say it depending on your audience.
  • How will you structure your talk?There must be an order to your ideas. Ideas contribute to each other as they follow one after the other. This will be directly affected by your purpose – is it just to explain or is it to persuade?
  • How will you move between sections?Plan to use clear links and linking language.
  • What is the sequence of ideas in your presentation? What linking expressions can you use to flow from one section to another?

For group presentations:

Ensure that you allocate roles to different members.

Create slides that work

Create slides that workGeneral design principles for presentation slides:

  • Not too much text;
  • One main idea per slide;
  • Slides as prompts;
  • Good use of colour and font.

Creating presentation slides (PDF opens in new window)

Remember:

Slides are only an aid to your presentation. What you have to say constitutes your presentation. Never write everything you want to say on a presentation slide.

Click below for the Southampton Solent University slide template and a PowerPoint template for the Warsash Maritime Academy:

Slide Template (PPT)
Warsash Maritime Academy template (PPT)

Not too much text

Compare these two slides. It should be obvious which one has a manageable amount of text and which one has too much text:

good bad

The way to design a strong presentation slide is to:

  •     Have no more than six lines of text per slide.
  •     Have a short, clear heading separate from the rest of the text.
  •     Use short phrases or very short statements, rather than long sentences.
  •     Use a large font.
Remember:

You don’t want your audience to be sitting reading text while you are talking. The idea is to have brief text that the audience can refer to and will help them to focus on the points you are talking about.

One main idea per slide

Look at these two slides. The first slide is the introductory slide that tells you what topics will be covered in the presentation. The second slide is the first slide but with content:

ideagood

Note on slide 2:

  • The slide heading is taken directly from the topics on the introductory slide.
  • Each bullet point clearly relates to the main idea ‘Style’.
  • No unrelated points are made in the slide.

Think of a presentation slide as similar to a paragraph in an essay:

The heading is like your topic sentence- it tells you what the main idea is.

The bullet points are like supporting sentences- they all relate to and expand on the main idea.

The way to write a strong presentation slide is to:

  • Have only one main idea on each slide.
  • State your main idea in the heading.
  • Make sure that each bullet point relates to the main idea.
  • If you cannot fit all your supporting points on one slide then move on to another. You can use a continued heading (e.g. ‘Presentation Style cont.’)

Slides as prompts

  • What is the purpose of a presentation slide?
  • Is it to give a full and detailed explanation? Or
  • Is it to give a starting point from which you verbally make an explanation?

Look at this slide:

prompt

How do you think this would be used?

Because this slide doesn’t give a great deal of detail it will only be used for a few seconds. Therefore, the written content will have to be talked around in order to get a full explanation. This is a good habit to get in to when preparing presentation slides:you have to be sure you know what you want to say about each slide.

The way to write the bullets on your slides is to:

  • Write short phrases, or
  • Write very brief sentences.
  • Make sure the meaning of the content is obvious.
  • Use the bullet points as notes or prompts – for you and for the audience.

Good use of colour and font

The slide below is an example of a poor presentation:

colours

The slide is weak because:

  • the colours are badly chosen – the yellow is almost impossible to read on top of the green. The pink is difficult to focus on.
  • there are three different fonts on the slide which make it confusing.
  • the fonts are too decorative so they are not easy to read.
  • the bulk of the text is written in capital letters. As readers, we don’t recognise these as easily as lower case letters.

A well presented slide would:

  • have colours with high contrast – dark colours on white are good, or try white or pale yellow on a dark blue background.
  • only use two colours for text – one for the heading and one for bullets.
  • use simple fonts (sans serif -without swirls and decoration)
  • use only one or two fonts on each slide.
  • avoid all caps on a slide

Make flash card notes

Weak presenters use notes as a script, reading them and never looking at the audience.

Good presenters make sure their notes are:

  • are brief
  • use key words or topic statements
  • give prompts for what you need to say
  • are easily held in the hand
  • are there to glance at and then look away from.

The best kind of notes to hold when you are giving a presentation are flash cards. A ‘flash card’ is a small piece of card you hold in your hand and glance at quickly to take in information.Use index cards or take a sheet of A4 card and cut it into quarters, or usePowerPoint to make presentation slides.

Important features of a flash-card:

  • Large, bold writing
  • Written in bullet points
  • Uses key words or short statements
  • No more than six lines of writing
  • easy to read at a glance.

How to use flash cards:

  • Print them on card so that they do not curl or get damaged easily
  • Number them
  • Make sure they are in the correct order before you start
  • Hold them just below chest-height
  • Never hold them in front of your face
  • Glance quickly at the card to take the information you need
  • Move the card to the back of the pile in your hands when you have finished with it
  • move from one card to the next at a transition point eg/a point where you can say ‘And now I would like to move on to...’
  • Have a final card that says ‘Any questions?’ to signal the end of the presentation.

Remember:

Learn and practise your presentation so that your flash card ‘prompts’ allow you to talk freely and confidently.

Creating and using Flash cards (PDF opens in new window)

Manage group presentations

For a strong group presentation, you need to:

Group presentations

  • Start together- in order to understand the key message that you want to convey and to be clear about how each of the presentation sections will fit together, spend time as a group talking it through and planning. Do some detailed planning before you go off to do your own work.
  • Allocate roles- be clear about who is going to do what in the presentation. Ensure that you distribute roles evenly. Who will introduce; who will summarise; who will invite questions; who will work the slides?
  • Collaborate -you may have individual roles, but you must try to avoid working individually. Spend time together, and make sure all the content fits together well. If your presentation is going to be coherent as a single piece of work, you need to come together regularly.Remember to help each other at the development stage as well.
  • Practise together -a strong presentation will make it clear how it all links together and will run to time.This requires a lot of practice as a group, as well as individually.

Referencing correctly

Referencing correctlySome tutors will expect to see citations and a slide giving all of your references at the end of your presentation, some won't. Ask your tutor before you start writing up your slides.

General guidelines for what the normal practice:

  • give a citation for the source (use the style for an in-text citation in an essay) if you have quoted material on your slides
  • give a citation if you have used any images, graphs, charts or tables that are not your own original work
  • provide a reference list if you have cited any material in the slides
  • put the reference list in your handouts if you have any
  • if you do not have handouts. put the reference list on a final slide that you can leave on screen after you have taken questions.

For a full guide on how to write references:

Visit the Referencing Book.

Scripting presentations checklist

Checklist

The ingredients of a strong presentation are:

  • a clear key message throughout;
  • a strong start;
  • a detailed plan carefully;
  • a clear structure – beginning, middle and end and clear sections, headings and signposts;
  • a tidy presentation;
  • notes on flash cards;
  • strong collaboration- a group effort.
Scripting presentations summary (PDF opens in new window)

Preparing presentations

Preparing presentationsGood preparation will help you give a great presentation:

  • Make sure you’ve got good content.
  • Learn, practise, rehearse.
  • Get all your slides and notes ready.
  • Work well with your group.
  • Get all set up on the day.

Preparation for a high-scoring presentation requires you to:

  • Spend a lot of time getting the content of your presentation right;
  • Allocate specific and clearly defined roles for each group member;
  • Prepare your slides and notes well in advance;
  • Collaborate with your group mates on the appearance of your slides;
  • Learn your role and content;
  • Practise each section until you know it and it is the correct length;
  • Rehearse in front of people (with the other members if you are in a group);
  • Arrive early on the day and make sure all equipment is set up and running;
  • If there is time, do a rehearsal with the equipment set up on the day.
Preparing presentations (PDF opens in new window)

Make sure you've got good content

Your preparation before giving a presentation not only consists of finalising your content. Think about:

What is the structure of your presentation?

  • Plan a beginning, middle and an end.
  • Make sure you have a clear Introduction, Main Body and Conclusion.

How are you going to give your presentation?

  • What sections will you have?
  • How will you link between the sections? (plan the linking expressions you will use).
  • When will you give your audience a chance to ask questions? (this could be at the end or at two or more fixed points during the presentation)

What questions will you be asked?

  • Brainstorm potential questions and practise answers to them.
  • Think particularly about points you have left out (perhaps because you want to keep things brief).

Learn, practice, rehearse

A strong presentation consists of thorough content and a convincing performance.

Remember:

The content of your presentation is not a script. Your slides and your note-cards are prompts to remind you of what you want to say.

 Have a look at this very short clip. Notice how Una only glances briefly at her notes and continues talking:

Preperation for delivering a presentation might follow the stages below.

Learn:

  • Do your research and background reading well.
  • Think through the structure and content with great care.
  • Make sure you know and understand what your group members are going to talk about.
  • write out what you want to say in full and begin to memorise it – put away this script when you go to the next step.
  • put your presentation slides in short, bullet point form.
  • Study your slides and work through in your mind what you will say about each one.

Practice:

  • talk aloud – even if you are on your own
  • Practise each of your slides individually; think about how to express your ideas as clearly as you can
  • practise referring to and explaining any supporting images or graphs you might have
  • Practise your transitions – what will you say when you move from one slide to another?
  • give a concise and clear introduction and summary
  • Record yourself – either just your voice or video record the whole presentation;
  • Analyse your recording and check where you are unclear or where you can make changes and improvements.

Rehearse:

  • go through the whole presentation without stopping – if you find problems, try to continue despite them.
  • time yourself.
  • If you are giving a group presentation, make sure you are all rehearsing together.
  • Ask your audience to think of questions to ask you – it is very helpful to practise answering spontaneous questions.
  • ask the people watching what they thought of the presentation – did they notice any mistakes or any way that you could improve it?
  • After you have finished, reflect on how well you think you did – can you make any improvements?
  • Record yourself – if possible video record the whole presentation and analyse it afterwards.
  • Repeat the rehearsal until you are confident you have got it right.

Get all your slides and notes ready

Slides
Some simple ways to make better slides:

  • Follow a clear structure and let your headings tell your structure.
  • Think of each slide as a paragraph eg/heading = topic sentence; bullet points = supporting sentences
  • Don’t over-fill your slides – about 6 lines of text is plenty.
  • Use big fonts and contrasting colours.
  • Use your slides as prompts for your talk, not a script.

Notes
Some simple ways to make your notes clear:

  • use small cards that fit easily into your hand.
  • put key words, phrases or very short statements on the cards
  • avoid detailed sentences.
  • use your notes as prompts for your talk, not a script.
  • good presentation slides can be printed small enough to hold as your note-cards.

Remember:

  • make sure your notes are numbered and in the correct order before you start.
  • put the slides on the computer you use on presentation day
  • check that slides, sound, animation or film clips work and can be read on the screen

Work well with your group

For a strong group presentation, work with your group at every stage. The worst thing you can do is to allocate roles, go off and prepare them separately only to come together on the day of the presentation – how would you know what your groupmates will say, and how will you know if your sections connect up together well?

Prepare well with your group by doing these things:

  • Plan the whole presentation together – not just the broader sections, but how each sections should work, and how they will link up.
  • Come together regularly to talk about what you have written and what you want to say.
  • Practise together – check that your sections are coherent with each other.
  • Allocate roles – who will do the introduction or summary? Who will take questions? Could one of your do all of the links between sections, or will one of you control all the technology?
  • Rehearse together, putting together all your sections and all your roles.
  • Always be prepared to tell each other when you think something is not working right or someone else is making mistakes.
  • Always be prepared to accept the criticism of your groupmates as a way of finding improvements to make.

Get all set up on the day

A computer that doesn’t work, notes in the wrong order, seating that means your audience can’t hear you will make you more nervous, and make your presentation sloppy. The brief video clip below shows what can happen when you haven't taken the time to set up.

On the day of your presentation do the following:

  • Turn up early to the venue.
  • Check the layout of the room (if it’s flexible) – arrange it so everyone can see and hear you well.
  • Switch on all the equipment.
  • Put your presentation on to the computer.
  • Start your presentation, go through each slide and make sure it has kept its formatting.
  • If you have any audio files, movies or animations to play in your presentation, check they work.
  • If you are using any other equipment (e.g. video, cd, dvd) check they work and check your media is cued up to the start point you need.
  • Lay out any notes or handouts you need where you can easily get to them.
  • If the room layout is not flexible, encourage audience members to sit in places where they can see and hear you well.
  • Take a deep breath

Preparing presentations checklist

Preparation for a strong presentation requires you to:

Checklist

  • Spend a lot of time getting the content of your presentation just right
  • Allocate specific and clearly defined roles for each group member
  • Prepare your slides and notes well in advance
  • Collaborate with your group mates on the appearance of your slides
  • Learn your role and content
  • Practise each section until you know it and it is the correct length
  • Rehearse in front of people (with the other members if you are in a group)
  • Arrive early on the day and make sure all equipment is set up and running
  • If there is time, do a rehearsal with the equipment set up on the day
Preparing presentations summary (PDF opens in new window)

More help

If you'd like some more help with Presentations you can:

  • Ask your lecturer for guidance.
  • If you are a disabled student you can also contact Access Solent for guidance and support.
  • View the glossary to help you understand the words used.
  • Read a book or ebook from the reading list found in Extra resources.
  • Visit recommended websites in Extra resources for further guidance on Presentations.

If you have any feedback about this book or additional material you'd like to see in the course, please email us at succeed@solent.ac.uk.

Thank you to all staff and students at Southampton Solent University who contributed to this course.

Extra resources

Reading List

Read a book or ebook from the Presentation Skills reading list.

The following titles are available from the library:

 

Downloadables

Documents used in this resource

Bad presentation slides with comments (PDF opens in new window)
Common mistakes (PDF opens in new window)
Creating presentation slides (PDF opens in new window)
Creating and using flash cards (PDF opens in new window)
Deal with nerves (PDF opens in new window)
Giving presentations summary (PDF opens in new window)
Good presentation slides (PDF opens in new window)
Presentation linking express (PDF opens in new window)
Presentation structure (PDF opens in new window)
Presentation style (PDF opens in new window)
Preparing presentations summary (PDF opens in new window)
Scripting presentations (PDF opens in a new windows)
Slide template (PPT)
Warsash Maritime Academy template (PPT)