Delivering your talk
To make sure you are well-prepared and comfortable, and that you learn from the experience, think about the strategies you can use to help the delivery of your presentation run smoothly.
Check the facilities (if possible)
Where are the light switches, pointers, OHPs, computers etc? Check the operation of the overhead projector. Will the audience be able to read your overheads? Stand right at the back and view your efforts.
Delivering your presentation
Being well-prepared will usually help minimise any anxiety. If you are not sure what you are going to say next, just pause a moment and check your notes. You may want to practice some breathing and relaxation exercises before your presentation to help you pace yourself.
Some tips for a good performance
You may find some of the following are appropriate for you to consider. Do discuss with your tutors any aspects you are unsure about as not all suggestions will be appropriate for everyone.
- Check the equipment is set up and working
- Take time to collect your thoughts
- Introduce yourself
- Start straight away on your main theme
- Set the scene and put your work in context
- Use appropriate language and vocabulary for your audience
- Be positive about your content and work
- Make use of natural breaks to collect your thoughts e.g. when moving onto a new slide in your presentation, or a new section of your discussion
- Use linking sentences: "The following example illustrates these issues..."; "This presentation focuses on a particular theme..." [make sure you name the theme and explain why this is a suitable focus]; "I'd now like to finish by..."
- Have a clear structure to your presentation that presents your argument in a logical way
- Refer to the objectives for the presentation, summarising the main points.
Some strategies on how to avoid presentation difficulties
- If possible, try to stand in a position that allows all of the audience to see both you and any presentation screen/projection
- Try to minimise reading from a word-for-word script - practise in advance using prompt keywords instead
- Avoid focusing on just one listener - if possible try to glance at different parts of the audience as you speak
- If you are concerned you will jingle coins or fiddle with jewellery/other accessories, empty your pockets before you begin your presentation and limit any distracting accessories
- Avoid clearing your throat or coughing - keep a bottle of water handy before, during and after the presentation to keep yourself hydrated
- Most people will find themselves saying 'um' and 'er', especially when they first start doing presentations - practising and experience will help to reduce both how often you hesitate and any self-consciousness you feel
- It can be tempting to emphasise all the difficulties experienced or the limitations of the presentation or even yourself - instead, where possible, be positive and clear about the topic and material presented
- Avoid jumping from one topic to another - for each point you make, and especially any changes of topic, try to be explicit to your audience in making the connections clear
- Preparation and practice can help you improve for next time
Review your performance
Ask for feedback from colleagues. Consider how it could have been improved. How would you change it if you had to repeat the presentation? How will you approach the next one? Remember, it can take a long time to become an accomplished speaker; be patient and work on strategies.