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Tips for Presentations

Before you start

Before you start working on your presentation:

  • Check emails from your lecturer and the assignment question for how it should be presented,
  • Check your learning materials and recommended reading on the course page,
  • Read all instructions carefully - make sure you understand them and follow them exactly.


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Speaking is fundamentally different from writing because listening is fundamentally different from reading. It is storytelling, and you are the storyteller.

  • A reader chooses when and where to focus attention; a speaker must focus a listener’s attention on what he or she is saying at this moment.
  • A reader controls how fast he or she will move through a text; a speaker controls how fast listeners will move through an oral presentation.
  • Readers have the option of going back and re-reading; listeners must grasp material as the speaker presents it.
  • Readers have many graphic cues about order and importance of points and about the relationship among ideas; listeners rely on the speaker to be their guide and interpreter.


Appeal to emotion

  • Tell a story. Audiences respond better and be more convinced with stories that data.
  • Use examples and anecdotes.
  • Use surprises. This could be using a video when the audience thinks they are only getting slides.

What do you need to say?

The information for your presentation usually comes from a paper, case study, analysis, essay, or report. Choose only the key points from your paper. Go back to the question you were asked when you originally wrote your paper.

Design is key

Your presentation needs an introduction, body, and conclusion. Plan what your presentation will look like before you begin. Use only the important points from your paper to plan for sections of your presentation. These points then become the focus.

For each major section of your presentation, follow the 4 S Structure:

  • Signpost the point (“First I’m going to point out the problem with...” “My second argument is that...” “It can be concluded that...”)
  • State the point clearly and succinctly.
  • Support the point with data, cases, description, relevant studies, etc.
  • Summarize the point.

It is from these that you then design your slides and choose corresponding images and text.

10/20/30 rule

This rule states that a Power Point presentation should have no more than 10 slides, be 20 minutes long, and use no less than 30-point font.

This rule will keep the presentation on track so that you keep to time, as well as having a presentation that moves at a good pace and that is readable.

Do you need it?

  • Use PowerPoint only if it will enhance audience attention, understanding, or retention.
  • Be selective about what you put on slides. Don’t put the entire presentation on slides.
  • Use visual and audio effects only if they serve your purpose and do not call attention to themselves. Make the technology serve the presentation. Don’t let it dominate.
  • These are tools to help you tell your story. Don’t let the tools become the story.

Make notes

Never read your presentation word for word. A good presentation is one where the presenter makes eye contact with his or her audience over the entire presentation. This means not reading your paper - your eyes are down, you lose your audience.

To help with this, make good notes, use cue cards, or put all notes on one sheet of paper. You can then glance at your notes for prompts. Better yet, learn and understand the material for your presentation, practice, and then use the images and text in your visual presentation as cues.

Tone and pacing

Avoid becoming monotone. Use variations in speed, inflections, and force to enhance your meaning and hold audience attention.
Practice pronouncing words with which you are unfamiliar.

Some further points

Often times, a presenter does not notice their voice and body habits, which can be distracting when presenting. Remember, presenting is visual and oral story telling. With this in mind, understanding how a presentation looks and sounds is important. Keep these elements in mind:

  • Voice - “um,” “uh,” “okay”; everything sounding like a question (raising voice at the end of sentences); nervous laugh at the end of sentences; clearing the throat a lot, reading too quickly.

  • Body language - flipping hair back, playing with pen/pointer etc., rolling and unrolling notes, pushing sleeves up and down, playing with keys or coins in pockets, stepping back and forth/tapping foot, rocking body, touching face/adjusting glasses, turning rings on hand, waving hands around, tugging at shirt.

  • Visual aids - flipping overheads/slides too fast, talking to the screen.

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