Studying Effectively

Preparing a talk

Initial preparation

  • Make sure you understand what the presentation is about
  • Check any requirements or guidance you have been given
  • If research is needed, outline the areas to be covered remembering that usually in a talk you will only have time to make 3 to 5 points.

Collecting content for the talk

  • Note down the key points to be made
  • Check any suggested sources before moving on to wider reading
  • Do not overload yourself with background reading as you have limited time 
  • Prioritise your findings
  • Keep notes of your sources (including page numbers)
  • Drawing/sketching or mind-mapping ideas  can be really helpful, especially for dyslexic students.

Establishing the structure

  • Begin with the introduction. Tell the audience who you are and what the talk is to be about.
  • Proceed to the main body where you expand on the introduction by making your main points
  • Finally conclude by summarising and, if appropriate, asking for questions.

Running notes

Understand your subject so that you can work from highlighted notes rather than a script. This allows you to look at your audience rather than at a sheet of paper. MS Powerpoint allows you to add running notes to your presentation.

Visual aids

When using presentation software like MS PowerPoint it is easy to overdo things so:

  • 1 slide, 1 idea
  • Only a couple of sentences per slide - leave plenty of space so that your audience does not feel this is a reading exercise
  • Choose a large clear Sans Serif font (e.g. 25pt Arial or Verdana)
  • Highlight key points using bold text
  • Images and diagrams can be better than words but ensure they can be seen from the back of the room, and complex diagrams may be best given as handouts
  • Use colour carefully. Dark blue or black text on an off-white background are usually easiest to read. Use accent colours sparingly.
  • Do not overuse effects, such as zooming or slide changing effects as they can distract the audience
  • Keep your presentation consistent - for example make sure that all your materials have a common background
  • Proofread everything for spelling or grammatical errors.

Your Powerpoint presentation should help the audience to understand your message - it should complement what you say rather than compete with you for attention.


Handouts can be distracting and should only be used when they add something to the presentation.


Practice your presentation out loud and in the way you intend to present it (standing or sitting). Speaking it aloud will give you ideas of timing and vocal techniques needed to put your point across. Rehearsing will give you added confidence and fluency.

While rehearsing you can annotate your running notes with timings to give you an idea if you are running to schedule. On a 10 minute talk, a note at halfway will give you an indication of your progress. For longer talks you may wish to add more timing prompts.

Preparing slides and notes


Further reading

Reading and interpreting sources and data

Practical strategies for presentations

  • Presentations and posters
  • Preparation and planning including 'How to Mind Map'

more Academic Support study resources

People who can help

Talk to someone in your school or a specialist support service


Studying Effectively

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