So you have the perfect class presentation. You’ve done your research, put together your slides and you’re confident you’ve got an A in your hands. However, if your class presentation is lacking in any of the following aspects, chances are you’re not getting the most out of the hard work you’ve put in.
1. Perfect timing for the presentation
You really don’t want to have to rush the end in order to finish in time or drag it out because you got nervous and started talking way too fast. To ensure your class presentation fits the pre-established time frame.
- Time yourself when practicing – give yourself about three tries before cutting out or adding information to better fit the allowed time. Make sure you’re speaking at a normal pace. This is an important step when preparing for the presentation.
- Have an ally – you may have timed your class presentation perfectly, but, once you’re out there, your nerves may get the best of you. So, ask a friend to gesture whether you’re speaking too fast, too slow or too quietly, and to just give you a thumbs up if you’re doing well.
2. Smooth performance
Stammering, filler words, awkward pauses, and multiple false starts. These are all things that are immediately associated with ‘You just have no idea what you’re talking about’, even if you do. So how do you avoid this?
- Practice, practice, practice – the best way to avoid messing up is to know your topic like the back of your hand. The first couple of times, check yourself using a paper where you’ve written the entirety of what you want to say. Once you’ve more or less familiarized yourself with that, start practicing with the actual paper/slides that you’ll be taking to your class presentation (hint – this one should only have bullet points). Only check your paper if you don’t remember certain details about a point, not if you’ve forgotten the sentence structure or a particular word. This way you’ll ensure that, when you’re giving your class presentation, you will be able to use your own words and won’t pause if something escapes your mind.
- Take a deep breath – If at the beginning or middle of your class presentation you blank out, it’s fine! Storytime – I once had to give a class presentation that was worth 30% of my grade. I thought I was fine but, once my teacher said I could start, I totally blanked out. You know what I did? I took a deep breath, quickly glanced at my first bullet point, gathered my thoughts and proceeded to give a great class presentation. You may think it’s the end of the world if you pause for a moment but – spoiler alert – it’s not. Everyone, including teachers, understands that these things happen and they’d rather you take the time to regroup than stammer nervously for the next five minutes.
3. A+ confidence
Nothing ruins a great class presentation like a speaker who’s constantly looking at the floor, touching their face and looks generally uncomfortable. Not only does it distract from the topic at hand but it makes you look like you don’t want to be there in the first place. What to do about it?
- Practice in front of a mirror – there’s nothing better to gain an understanding of your body language. Look at your reflection straight in the eye and focus on controlling your nervous tics. Make sure you convey confidence in your topic.
- Focus your energy on your hands – don’t fidget with them, but talk with them, use them expressively (slow smooth movements work best). This avoids weird feet movements, playing with your hair, bouncing from side to side and other movements that convey nervousness. Plus, using your hand for emphasis is usually perceived as having confidence in the subject.
- Ponies for the win – having your hair up will keep your from playing with it plus, I always notice that people in high ponytails tend to stand taller and more confident. If you’re dead-set on wearing it down, at least keep it out of your face with a half-up half down or just with some bobby pins.
- Dress for the occasion – choose an outfit that’s going to make you feel comfortable. It’s probably a good idea to avoid sweats but doesn’t go with anything too formal or too fashion-forward if you don’t feel like a badass in it.
- Look at your audience – you don’t have to look them in the eye if it makes you uncomfortable,just look in their general direction. Most importantly, try not to hide behind any papers you may have in your hands.
4. Impressing your teacher during the class presentation
At the end of the day, they are the ones that grade your work. Even if your research on the topic isn’t the greatest or you could’ve done something better, if you go the extra mile, they’ll take that effort into account. Some small things to consider:
- Go for Prezi instead of PowerPoint – it takes more time to put it together, but the visuals are 120% better and your teacher will be left in awe.
- Use the blackboard – if you don’t have slides, make sure to write keywords or really short bullet points on it. It’ll make it easier for everyone to follow your explanations and you can use the time to gather your thoughts.
- Engage with your audience – when you come across a general topic or something that you have gone over in class, ask your classmates about it. ‘Can someone tell me what types of renewable energy there are?’ ‘Does anyone here know what Ockham’s razor is?’ ‘Have you guys heard about wormholes?’. Bonus points if you can take an answer that someone gives you and use it as the starting point for your class presentation.
- Ask for questions when you’re done – it will make you look like you know your stuff plus the likelihood that people will actually ask something is slim. Additionally, you can always set up a friend to ask you a question you know the answer to because that always looks great.
Perfecting each of these categories can take your class presentation from good to great, so, next time you have to present a topic, don’t forget to try out these tips! If you are looking for more presentation preparation tips, make sure to head over to this post!