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Polish Your Professional Skills: Giving an Academic Presentation: Start Here

How do I prepare to give a presentation?

  • Practise presenting with the corresponding visuals until you don’t have to read off the PowerPoint slides.
  • Time your presentation to make sure it fits in the requirements of the assignment.
  • Practise in front of a mirror or make a video of your presentation so you can critique yourself.
  • Better yet, have a friend or classmate listen and give you feedback.
  • Make notes or flashcards for parts that you have trouble remembering.
  • If possible, practise in the room you will present in and check audio visual equipment.
  • Ensure you have everything you need on presentation day (USB, handouts, etc.) and always have two or three copies of your files available if there are technical problems.

How do I manage nervousness?

  • Start working on your presentation early: the sooner you begin, the more time you have to learn the content and practise. Procrastinating increases stress and pressure and nervousness.
  • Practise as much as possible. Use the strategies above or consider booking an appointment with Learning Services to get feedback on your presentation.
  • Expect and accept nerves; don’t worry about hiding your nervousness. Instead, focus on getting the content across as best you can.

How do I make my presentation memorable?

  •  Make eye contact with the audience.
  •  Show enthusiasm about your presentation.
  •  Keep your face and the front of your body turned to the audience, not to the screen.  Don’t read from the screen or the laptop.
  • Pace yourself: most people tend to speed up at the end of sentences, paragraphs, or the last part of their presentation.
  • Focus: choose one aspect of your presentation, such as your enthusiasm for the topic, and focus on conveying that with each sentence rather than internally evaluating your performance as you present.

How do I deal with questions?

  • Think of potential questions before you present. Have the answers with you at your presentation so you can refer to them if the audience ask that question or a similar one.
  • Take time to process the question and formulate a response.  Repeat or paraphrase a question to be sure you understood it.
  • Don’t panic if you don’t immediately know the answer to a question. Ask for clarification if necessary. Take a moment to think, and behave calmly while you’re thinking, even if you don’t feel calm.
  • If you don’t know the answer, be honest but say “My research didn’t address that…” or “I see that as a next step” or discuss something related that you do know.

My presentation is over, now what?

  • Every presentation, no matter how good, can be a learning experience.
  • Get feedback from audience members and/or the instructor and reflect on it. Set goals to improve your next presentation. 
  • Do a self-evaluation:
    • name three things that went well and you would try again
    • name two things you would improve
    • name two things you would like to stop
  • Consider attending Presentation Boot Camp to build on your skills for the next presentation.

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