When you are in school you almost can’t avoid giving presentations at all. Either you have to do it for a class activity or a tutorial session, or it is a part of assessments. Learning how to do it well, and be fully prepared for a presentation will definitely help. This is the first post on how to give a good presentation, and it will cover everything from organizing your presentation content, visual aids, to deciding your presentation method.
Developing Good and Rich Content
Goal of the presentation
You should first figure out the goal of your presentation. This would help you to pinpoint the direction of your presentation and form the content. For most of the time, a presentation involves
- persuading someone to believe or think about something, or advice people to take action
- explain certain things, to make it understandable and clear to others.
When considering what to put in your presentation, the time limit is obviously a very critical constraint.
The first thing you should do is to map out all the key points you want to get across to the audience. Then, you would have to think about examples and illustrations to help people to understand your ideas. Making them simple and easy to comprehend is the key. Finally, think about the connection and association between all these and your goal of presentation.
If you are doing a long presentation, your audience may get bored at some point. You may need to consider adding a few interesting notes to grab your audience’s attention in between your presentation.
Remember, since you are doing a presentation instead of writing an article, your audience may forget what you are trying to say. Hence, repetition is somewhat necessary to recall your audience’s memory.
Use of Language
Make sure to you explain your ideas in simple language. If there are jargons or difficult words or phrases, you will need to illustrate them a little bit more. Remember to also eliminate long sentences.
Organization and Structure of Your Presentation
This is where you tell your audience what you are going to say (overview) and why you are doing the presentation (purpose). Clearly stating what you are going through helps the audience to know where your presentation is heading to.
An introduction should somehow attract the audience and increase their interest towards your topic. You can start by telling them a story, a current situation, your own personal experience, or asking them a simple question.
So this is how an introduction usually goes:
- Engage your audience
- Purpose of the presentation
- An overview of the key points
When you are trying to think about what to put into your main body, bear in mind the logical structure of your arguments. Using signposts like “I will now talk about the second point…” will be very helpful to signal your audience regarding where you are in your presentation.
Your conclusion mainly serves two purposes. First, it reminds the audience of what you have just talked about, and second, it reinforces your message. The simplest and easiest way to do it would be to restate the key points you have mentioned and show the audience how they linked to the purpose of the presentation.
If you have asked a question at the very beginning, you can also conclude your presentation by answering the question. Similarly, if you have talked about any stories or personal experiences, you may bring them up again at the end to show the relevance of the story.
To prevent ending your presentation abruptly, you can politely thank your audience for listening.
The Use of Visual Aids and Slides
There are a lot of different styles of visual aids you can go for. This simplest and most common form would have to be a point form slides using PowerPoint. Here are a few reminders if you decide to use PowerPoint:
- Make sure you use readable fonts style and font size.
- Bold important words.
- Don’t try to cram a lot of words on one slide. Make everything clear for people to read.
- Make it visual, but remember to use suitable and appropriate graphics.
- Use appropriate and helpful animation (that is going to help you illustrate your point). The unnecessary animation is very distracting.
- Avoid reading from the slides. Make sure that the slides are only a form of guidance for the audience instead of the entire script of your presentation.
I personally like incorporating meaningful graphics or even some infographics on the slides. One of my favorite online software is Piktochart. It’s extremely easy to use and very helpful for making slides that are clear and engaging at the same time.
This is my recent presentation for a university course using Piktochart.
The Way You Deliver Your Presentation
Reading from a script
A lot of people choose to play safe and prepare a script beforehand. They would then read it out word-by-word. One downside of this is that it would feel very unnatural and the speaker would be interacting with the script instead of the audience. A lot of people would rely too much on the script that they may even fail to make eye contact with the audience. If you really need a script to help, you should make sure that it is in spoken language and make as much eye contact as possible during the presentation.
This is a form of presentation where you won’t have a prepared script. This is a very good way to interact with the audience and would be great if you are confident enough and very familiar with the topic you are presenting.
This method of delivery is when you are very prepared, yet you don’t have a written script. You would have an outline and every important information in your mind, but you won’t have the exact wordings of the presentation planned. This is an awesome method of delivery for many students because it calms your nerves as you will know what to expect, but at the same time your presentation will be natural and interactive.
Some may prefer to have cue cards as presentation notes. They are indeed very helpful as you don’t want yourself to panic when you forget what you have to say. Here are a few points to note when making your cue cards:
- You can just put down the important keywords instead of having full sentences (otherwise it would be the same as a script)
- Number the cards so you can easily figure out the sequence
- Write a short sentence that link to the next point at the end of a cue card so you will know what’s coming up next
Final note: do more research than necessary
Sometimes you don’t just give a presentation and go back to your seat, you will need to answer questions from either your teacher, tutor or your peers. And you definitely have to be prepared for them. The thing you should do, therefore, is to make sure that you understand everything you are going to say / that you have put on the slides, and do some extra background search for some of the information.