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Present Like a Pro

Why should I plan my presentation?

  • Planning your presentation can help ensure that only relevant content is included.
  • A good plan will ensure your presentation flows well and has a strong introduction and conclusion.
  • Planning your presentation and starting well before the due date will allow time to practice, get feedback, revise your content, and polish your skills before your presentation in class.

How do I get started on my presentation?

  • Consider other academic presentations that you’ve seen before. What did you like about them? Can you incorporate something similar into your presentation?
  • Consult your course outline to determine the specific criteria for the presentation.
  • Determine the purpose of the presentation (to inform, teach, discuss, convince, or demonstrate your knowledge, etc.).
  • Check how much time you have to present.
  • Establish who your audience is and consider how familiar they will be with the subject matter of your presentation. Check out Seven Questions to Know Your Audience for more information.
  • Determine how marks will be allocated for the presentation. If a rubric has been provided, review it frequently to ensure you’re meeting the project requirements. 
  • Keep purpose and audience in mind as you gather information for your presentation. 
  • Academic presentations are considered a form of academic publication and must be referenced appropriately. (For information on referencing, consult the appropriate citation guide for your discipline.)

How should I structure my presentation?

  • Check your course outline to see if any guidelines have been provided about the structure of your presentation.
  • Presentations usually have three basic sections: the opening, the body, and the conclusion.


  • Start your presentation by introducing the topic and establishing its relevance to the course.
  • It can be helpful to use a “hook” in your opening to grab the audience’s attention. You could use a relevant statistic, a provocative question or prediction, a compelling anecdote, an image, a surprising fact, etc. Always be cautious with humour – be sure it’s appropriate for an academic context.
  • You may also consider starting with an outline of your presentation, and/or providing learning outcomes to help your audience know what to expect.


  • The body of the presentation can be organized if different ways:
    • chronological
    • topical grouping
    • question and answer
    • narrative (as a story), or
    • journal article format.
  • Choose a method that makes the most sense for your topic, the goal of your presentation, and your audience.
  • The main ideas in your presentation should flow logically from one idea to the next.


  • Conclude your presentation with one or more main ideas that the audience should take away.
  • You may also consider leaving your audience with an actionable take-away (i.e. what is something that they now should do?) or a question to think about.

Planning for questions

  • Think of potential questions before your presentation.
  • When practicing your presentation, ask your audience to suggest possible questions.
  • Pay attention to the questions that your instructor asks other presenters, and prepare for those types of question or level of detail.
  • If you expect many questions from your audience, create slides with additional information from your research. Place the slides at the end of your presentation, and use them if a relevant question is asked.

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