Giving a Presentation

Preparing, organising, delivering

Source: University of Canberra


First of all, think ...

  • Think about what you want to achieve:
    do you want to inform your audience, inspire them to think about your topic, or convince them of a particular point of view?
  • Think about your audience:
    what background knowledge do they have about your topic? Do they have any particular interests? How are you going to involve them in your presentation?

Then ...

  • Brainstorm your topic and write a rough outline.
  • Research your topic. Don’t get carried away—remember you have a limited time for your presentation (2, 5 or 10 min).
  • Organise your material and write a draft—think about the length of time you have to talk.
  • Summarise your draft into points to write on overheads and/or cards.
  • Plan and prepare your visual aids.
  • Rehearse your presentation and get its length right. Ask a friend to listen and time you.


Introduction (may be written last)

  • Capture your listeners’ attention: Begin with a question, a funny story, a startling comment, or anything that will make them think.
  • State your purpose; for example:
    ‘I’m going to talk about...’
    ‘This morning I want to explain…’
  • Present an outline of your talk; for example:
    ‘I will concentrate on the following points: First of all…Then…
    This will lead to… And finally…’

the body

  • Present your main points one by one in logical order.
  • Pause at the end of each point (give people time to take notes, or time to think about what you are saying).
  • Make it absolutely clear when you move to another point. For example:
    ‘The next point is that ...’
    ‘OK, now I am going to talk about ...’
    ‘Right. Now I'd like to explain ... ’
    ‘Of course, we must not forget that ...’
    ‘However, it's important to realise that...’
  • Use clear examples to illustrate your points.
  • Use visual aids to make your presentation more interesting.

the conclusion

  • It is very important to leave your audience with a clear summary of everything you have covered.
  • It is also important not to let the talk just fizzle out. Make it obvious that you have reached the end of the presentation.
  • Summarise the main points again, using phrases like:
    ‘To sum up...’
    ‘So, in conclusion...’
    ‘OK, to recap the main points…’
  • Restate the purpose of your talk, and say that you have achieved your aim:
    ‘I think you can now see that...’
    ‘My intention was ..., and it should now be clear that ...’
  • Thank the audience, and invite questions:
    ‘Thank you. Are there any questions?’


Talk to your audience, don't read to them!

A presentation is not the same as an essay.

If you read out your presentation as if it were an essay, your audience will probably understand very little and will lose concentration quickly.

So use notes, cue cards or overheads as prompts, and speak to the audience. Include everyone by looking at them and maintaining eye-contact (but don't stare or glare at people).

use your voice

  • Speak loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear you.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
    Don’t rush!
  • Key words are important. Speak them out slowly and loudly.
  • Vary your voice quality. If you always use the same volume and pitch (for example, all loud, or all soft, or in a monotone) your audience will switch off.
  • Slow down for key points.
  • Use pauses—don't be afraid of short periods of silence. (They give you a chance to gather your thoughts, and your audience a chance to think.)

dealing with nervousness

The first few times you make a presentation, you will be nervous. That's quite a good thing—a bit of adrenalin often helps you to perform well.

However, to make sure that your nervousness does not become a problem, here are some things to consider:

  • Smile! Your audience will react warmly to you if you smile and at least look relaxed.
  • Treat your audience like friends.
  • Confess that you are nervous! Your audience will be very sympathetic—they know how you are feeling.
  • Breathe deeply. It will calm you down and help to control the slight shaking that you might get in your hands and your voice.
  • Be well-prepared. Practice giving your talk.
  • Be organised. If you are well organised, your task will be easier.
  • Slow down! When people are nervous, they tend to get confused easily. So your mind may start to race, and you may feel panicky. Make use of pauses: force yourself to stop at the end of a sentence, take a breath, and think before you continue.
  • Remember: The way you perform is the way your audience will feel. Giving an oral presentation is a performance—you have to be like an actor.
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