Present Like a Pro
Presentations are an expressive, dynamic way to present information for your course assessment on a subject matter of interest. Presentations let you bring your theories, findings, and interests alive and off the page. Knowing how to develop and deliver your presentation can be key to achieving the grade you deserve. Below are strategies to help you to present like a pro during your next presentation.
- Presentation structure
- Presentation visuals
- Public speaking strategies
- Presenting online or remotely
Check out our visual resource for "Presentations Like a Pro" below!
If your instructor has not provided specific directions, the general rule is to structure your presentation similarly to a paper with a few additions. Always be extremely careful to strictly adhere to the time length directions given by your professor for your overall presentation.
At the start of your presentation, say hello, introduce yourself (and your group if applicable), the title of your presentation, the subject being explored, the main thesis of your presentation, and an outline of the main topics you will be covering.
Body of Content
Most of your presentation will be spent reviewing the outlined topics from your introduction. The topics should flow in a natural progression that leads to your conclusion on the subject.
Be sure to state a clear, comprehensive ending of your conclusion via major findings, statements, or thoughts on the topic. Your audience should know your exact stance before closing out your presentation.
Unlike a written assignment, there is no clear last page to an oral presentation. Presenters can create a closing through a statement such as, “That is the end of my presentation, thank you for your time and attention” or, if your instructor requires a Q&A period, you could say, “Thank you for your time, are there any questions?”
The Q&A Session
Prepare ahead for likely questions that will be asked. Rehearse your presentation with classmates to see what questions they think of. During your real presentation, if you are asked new questions and need to refer to data on your cue card or slide, simply paraphrase what you believe they are asking and then restate the data/information previously referenced. If you are asked a question you do not know the full answer to, state the information you do know and offer an area for future research that could address the remainder.
When developing your presentation, have your slides support your spoken word, not overshadow it. Using the below strategies, the audience will be hooked on your words throughout.
Less (distraction) is more (audience attention). The purpose of slides is to support your outline and give graphics/images/charts which cannot be expressed fully through your spoken word. Use large clear fonts that are legible from far away. Try to be within the 6/7 rule: a maximum of six bullet points per slide and only seven words per bullet point.
Keep your graphics, animations, and colour uses minimal per slide. If there will be a long period of speech with no necessary visuals to align with it, consider putting in a filler slide. Filler slides can be blank with a dark background, have a singular logo (e.g. Memorial's logo), or a basic image/statement that aligns with your topic.
Be Tech Ready
Having a well-prepared slideshow not work properly when it’s your time to present can be a lot to handle in the moment. To prepare for this - have your slideshow accessible through three means: 1) saved onto the cloud; 2) saved onto a flash drive; 3) linked to an email in your inbox (this way, you can forward it to yourself or the classroom if needed). We also recommend having a hard copy of the required visuals (i.e. graphs, charts) printed in case technology entirely fails.
Public Speaking Strategies
The "speaking" in public speaking can be the area of a presentation that needs the most practice as it may not be something you have had lots of prior opportunities to perform. Luckily, most of your classmates will be in the same situation and be rooting for you to succeed. Some general areas to focus on are:
Present with physical confidence through good posture, dressing for the occasion as appropriate, and making eye contact with your audience. If eye contact is likely to make you feel nervous instead of confident, look at shoulders, look at the back of the room, look between audience members, or scan across the room slowly. Avoid distracting actions such as clicking a pen, crossing your arms, rocking back and forth, tapping your foot, chewing gum, fidgeting, etc.
Speak clearly, enthusiastically, and loud enough to be heard by those in the back of the classroom. Have a bottle of water nearby for unexpected dry throat or coughing. Replace using filler words (such as “um”, “uh”, and “like”) with pauses or reorientation statements. Pauses are great if you’ve been rushing and need a moment to slow down your speaking as you mentally catch up to your place in your presentation. Reorientation statements are used for you and the audience to bridge from one statement/slide to the next and allow you a moment to gather your thoughts (such as, “now that we have covered Point B, let's discuss Point C”).
Cue cards should do only that - cue you. Your cue cards should not be a full script word for word of what you want to say. Keep only bulleted information such as leading points, terms, or data. Number each card so you know what card you are on and how many to go (e.g. #1/5). This helps keep you on track but also gauges your overall time use.
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse!
Present aloud to see how it sounds and feels. Practice makes perfect! The more you practice your presentation, the more familiar you will become with it; aim to be able to present with zero or few prompts needed. When possible, see if you can present to friends, roommates, classmates, or family and get their feedback.
Presenting Online or Remotely
If you find yourself in a situation where you must present through a virtual room, there are a few tips specific to your scenario in addition to the above general information on presenting.
Set your camera angle so that it perceives you as looking toward it when you’re speaking. Your audience will want to feel you are speaking to them, and having your camera angled in this way creates that one-on-one visual.
Before presenting virtually, use a virtual test room to verify your audio and video settings are functioning appropriately. Test that your slide deck or PowerPoint behaves as expected and that you know how to move forward/backward in presenter mode.
Use PowerPoint's “rehearse timings” feature in Microsoft Office when you are working on your first drafts. Also, if you log onto Microsoft Online with an Office 365 account, you can make use of the Rehearse with Coach feature. Finally, consider recording your presentation using Office365’s PowerPoint's “Record Slide Show” feature to self-evaluate your voice, pace, and presence as it will appear to others.
What Would CITL Do?
Many professors will utilize one of CITL's teacher & technology supports when preparing to present a lecture in front of their class. CITL also creates learner-specific content. These resources are publicly available and can serve as a supplemental guide for tips, tricks, and start up. Here are two to get you started:
Presentations Like a Pro [Visual Resources]
Do you have a big presentation coming up? Join the ASC as we discuss presentations from design right through to delivery; in person and online!
Algonquin College. (2021, June 3). Presentation skills. Algonquin College: Student Support Services. https://algonquincollege.libguides.com/studyskills/presentation-skills
Carnegie Mellon University. (2022). Presentation strategies. Carnegie Mellon University. Student Academic Success Center. https://www.cmu.edu/student-success/other-resources/handouts/comm-supp-pdfs/presentation-strategies.pdf
Grand Valley State University. (2016, December 7). Oral presentation tips. Grand Valley State University: Office of undergraduate research and scholarship. https://www.gvsu.edu/ours/oral-presentation-tips-30.htm
Simon Fraser University. (2017, September 26). Increase your presentation confidence. Simon Fraser University: Student Learning Commons. Retrieved January 26, 2022 from https://www.lib.sfu.ca/about/branches-depts/slc/learning/presentations/increase-presentation-confidence
St. Thomas University. (n.d.). Making and delivering a good presentation. St. Thomas University: Student Success Coach. Retrieved January 26, 2022 from https://www.stu.ca/studentsuccess/oral-communication/making-and-delivering-a-good-presentation/