Oral academic presentations can have a range of structures and purposes, from seminar or tutorial presentations to conference papers. Being prepared and using effective presentation strategies will help you successfully communicate your ideas and information.
Preparation is essential for a successful presentation.
You need to carefully analyse the assignment instructions and other information about your presentation. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the presentation topic and its purpose. Speak to your lecturer, tutor or supervisor if you need to clarify what’s expected of you.
Consider if the purpose is to be informative, instructional or persuasive.
Your audience will affect the content and delivery of your presentation. Think about what your audience already knows about the topic, why they’re there and whether you need to adjust your tone or level of technical and formal language.
Prepare your presentation like you would any other assignment. This might include research, selecting and analysing information, coming up with examples, developing an argument and thinking carefully about the structure.
Make sure your content is relevant and you have a sound understanding of the subject matter.
Once you’ve worked out the content of your presentation, think about what equipment or audiovisual aids you might want to use.
You should also create notes or an outline you can refer to during your presentation. Your notes should be brief, and could be:
Don’t read out a written script. Written language is harder for your audience to follow, it’s easier to lose your place, and you can’t keep good eye contact with the audience. Try to be more conversational and rely less on notes.
Practise your talk and check the timing. Work out how many minutes you want to spend on each part, and allow time for any necessary pauses. Try practising your presentation with a friend to find out if any parts are unclear, too fast or slow.
Finally, do some preparation to build your confidence and reduce nerves.
This material was developed by the Learning Centre, who offer workshops, face-to-face consultations and resources to support your learning. Find out more about how they can help you develop your communication, research and study skills.
See the handout on Oral presentations (pdf, 3.2MB).