Plan and prepare your presentation
Know your purpose View
If your presentation is being assessed, read the assessment criteria carefully. You should also familiarise yourself with the marking rubric and any other instructions for the oral presentation. Your lecturer will have set the assessment with one or more particular educational purposes in mind, apart from assessing your knowledge of the topic. Always seek to address the assessment criteria in your presentation.
Know your audience View
As well as your own purpose in presenting, you need to consider your audience’s purpose in listening. Who are they? Why are they there? The content, scope and style of your presentation will be affected by your audience's characteristics and needs. Consider the different audiences below and their needs/expectations.
|Audience||Needs / Expectations|
Expert or non-expert?
What do they already know about your topic?
Your peer group (e.g. First-year students, postgraduates, academic staff)?
What do they need to know?
What do they want to know?
What do they not need to know?
|General public, government officials or a community group?|
|A client in the industry (as part of a mock pitch)?|
Your audience's characteristics and needs influence the depth and amount of detail to include. With an expert audience, for example, you can skim over the basics. But if they don't know much about your topic, you need to provide background information.
Structuring your presentation View
Like stories, essays and reports, oral presentations are structured. They have a beginning (introduction), a middle (body), and an end (conclusion). These three sections should flow logically from each other.
Your introduction should capture the attention of your audience and 'hook' them into your topic. You could start with an image, an anecdote, or a problem that will not only introduce your topic but also engage your audience’s interest.
Some useful opening phrases include:
"This is the story of…"
"There are over 31 species of…"
"Have you ever wondered what would happen if…
"I want to start by…"
"To put the topic into context…"
The body of the presentation develops the topic by expanding the plan in a logical sequence.
Because listeners’ attention can fluctuate, it is important to regularly remind your audience where you are in your talk, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. You should also verbally mark transitions, key points, examples, etc.
Some useful phrases include:
“The next point is that…”
“Moving on to…”
“I would now like to discuss…”
“Let’s take a moment to look at a few other reports…”
“So what have other people said about this?”
“OK, so what’s next…”
“It’s important to remember that…”
“This is important/significant because…”/ Perhaps you’re thinking that... and you’re right / but this would be a mistake…”
“The crucial discovery in this is…”
“Therefore, what does this all mean? What is the significance of this?”
“And now we come to the core of the problem…”
“Now let’s look at…”
“This image shows…”
“May I focus your attention on the table / chart/ figure. You’ll notice that…”
“OK so you can see a summary of our results here…”
Use signalling words and phrases - often known as signposting - to indicate the purpose of each part of your presentation and how your point relates to the overall topic. These expressions also help guide your audience from one section to the next.
"The crux of the matter…"
"The next point is crucial…"
"So now what we have is…"
"Let me put that another way…"
"In other words…"
"Let me illustrate this by referring to…"
"Take the case of…"
"A good example of this is…"
"I might just mention…"
"That reminds me of…"
"Let's now consider…"
"Now let's have a look at…"
"The next aspect of the topic I wish to consider is…"
"To sum up…"
"As a result…"
The conclusion should be clearly linked to the introduction, showing how any issues or problems that you’ve raised have been addressed.
Some useful phrases to signal that you are concluding include:
“To sum up…”/ “In summary”
“To recap the main points…”
“So where does this leave us?”
"My main point is that…"
“We have raised the following questions:…”
“Our study has shown that…”
"We believe our study may be the first step in…"
"Thank you for listening. Are there any questions?"
Preparing visual aids View
You might like to use visual aids in your presentation, but you don’t have to, unless instructed by your assessment. Visual aids stimulate interest and make it easier for the audience to understand your presentation. The most common type of visual aid is a set of slides, but visual aids can also include models, prototypes, posters, video clips and pictures/images.
Do not confuse your visual aids with your presentation. The presentation is what you do and say. Visual aids, (such as slides), when used, should support or illustrate what you say.
Visual aids can help the audience:
- understand abstract concepts
- visualise structures or processes which are hard to explain with words alone (charts/diagrams)
- compare information (tables, graphs).
Slides should be concise, simple and relevant, and complement (not repeat) what you say. Text should be used sparingly on slides.
Don’t have so many slides that you have to race through them. This indicates poor planning. Generally, one slide per minute is about right, but of course you can vary how long you spend on each.
Remember that visuals should support the content of your presentation, not distract from it. If you’re spending too much time explaining your visuals rather than just presenting your talk, then it would be better to go without visual aids.