Giving an Oral Presentation
- Less is more. Rather than covering everything you know about a topic, try to focus on two or three main points you want to communicate to your audience and then build your presentation around these points.
- Put yourself in the audience’s shoes. What would someone who knows nothing about your work need to know to understand it better? What questions might they have?
- Structure and flow: Your presentation should have a logical flow, with a clear introduction, middle, and conclusion.
- Add humour: Humour can significantly help engage your audience. Is there a question you always get asked about your work that has a funny side, or something about your topic that is commonly misunderstood?
- Leave time for questions: Let the audience know at the beginning of your presentation whether you will take questions at the end or during the talk (keeping in mind that this could affect your ability to stay within your time limit).
- Plan ahead: Plan out what you are going to say before creating presentation slides.
- Don’t go overboard: Keep slides to a minimum (e.g. a maximum of 10 slides for a 15 minute presentation). Having too many slides can overwhelm your audience with content.
- Keep it simple:
- Limit text as it is very hard for people to read and listen at the same time. To help with this, use point-form (bulleted lists).
- Avoid using slide transitions and animations; these tend to distract an audience rather than engage them in what you have to say.
- Keep it visual:
- Visuals (pictures, diagrams, charts, graphs, figures) can help explain what you are saying and engage your audience.
- Include citations for any visuals you do not hold copyright to.
- Before your presentation, make sure visuals and text are clearly visible from a distance. Use text that is at least 24 point, and use contrasting colours (e.g. use white text on a black background rather than on a yellow background).
Practice, Practice, Practice
- Say it out loud: Practice presenting out loud, with your slides, at least 5 times. Time yourself so that you can be confident your presentation is not too long or too short.
- Make your practice real: Don’t practice in front of the mirror or laying on the couch. Instead, try to re-create the actual environment of your big day: practice in a classroom or a study room with your slides and an audience (a group of friends?) and have them ask questions.
- Ask for advice: If practicing in front of others, make sure to ask for feedback on your presentation and public speaking skills, including both strengths and areas for improvement. Ask questions like:
- “What was the most important takeaway for you? Why?”;
- “Where did I lose your interest? Why?”; and
- “What could I have left out? Did something need more clarification?”
- Don’t read from notes: Practicing will allow you to make eye contact and speak freely and confidently without reading from notes, which is essential to connecting with your audience.
- Relax: If you get nervous on the day of your presentation, thinking about your audience can help. Remember, they are interested and supportive of what you have to say. This is your chance to share what you have learned with others and hear their thoughts and perspectives.
Note: Your work may qualify for inclusion in MacEwan's institutional repository, Research Online at MacEwan (RO@M). Send a copy of any presentation slides or papers that accompanied your presentation, or any recordings of your talk, along with the name and date of the conference where it was presented and the names of any faculty members who advised the work to email@example.com for consideration.