How to make a good presentation

by ariadnesthread101

Students on the MEG will be giving their first presentation this coming week for the module Environmental Issues, which uses problem-based learning. At the last session of Ariadne’s Thread, I promised a blog post on tips for making a good presentation (even if this one is super informal).

So here’s a little digest of some links from around the University website and the wider maze of the internet 🙂

First, a printable summary sheet from the University’s Department of Sociology. If you want something quick to use as a checklist, this is it. Also from the University, here’s a bunch of material from the Skills Development pages.

If you’re using Powerpoint, then here are some guidelines from, em, the people who made Powerpoint.

What about presentations in an academic setting? Here’s a blogger I follow, talking specifically about the art of giving an academic presentation. You’ll see from this, and all the ones above as well, that really, it’s just a question of being organised, having a clear message, practising your delivery and then, seriously, seriously, enjoying it.

Something to think about: Do you necessarily have to give a powerpoint presentation in an academic setting? (You do if the Module handbook says you do. But if it doesn’t, or later, after your course, you have the freedom to think about it.) You could, for instance, just do this:


Or this:


So that’s a list of Dos. Here’s a list of Don’ts 🙂 And another one.

And to end, here are my top 5 tips collected from giving presentations to students and colleagues at lectures and conferences.

1. Practise. Someone I know said: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Prac.tise. Whether you believe it or not, each time you practise you halve your nervousness (if you’re nervous) and double your confidence. Practise with your group, let them listen to you. Trust them, and practise looking at everyone all over the room (not just your friend – I do this all the time!)

2. If you’re using powerpoint, use one graphic or one picture per slide. ONLY. No text or super-little text. Keep the text in notes in front of you if you  need to. The idea is that if your audience is reading from your slide, they are not listening to you. Or, even worse, both you and the audience are reading from your slide. You might as well write a blog post for them and tell them to read it at home 😛 They are here to listen.

3. Both of the above mean that you need to plan. Doing a good powerpoint, and delivering it well, means you have to plan ahead a tiny bit, especially if you’re not used to it. It’s worth it. Plan time for making a plan of the slides, putting them together, writing your notes, reading your notes, changing things around, practising delivery and making any final changes.

4. Make handouts. This is good for you (you have something in front of you if you need it) and great for the audience. And its impressive 🙂

5. Relax. There are two thoughts and one action which help me relax. One: The audience is composed of people. Mostly peers. People can be awful sometimes. But in normal academic presentations at Essex they do not look or behave like this:


The most that will happen is that someone will ask you a question you cannot answer (the answer is: Good question! I don’t know.) Or someone will fall asleep. Big deal.

Two: You can actually forget to be afraid. Back home, a friend and I used to say to each other before taking on a challenge: Become so immersed in something, that you forget to be afraid. Just become super-excited about the subject, make the preparation into an act of love, and forget the rest.

And the one action that really works is: Breathe. Slowly. It’s stupidly simple but awesomely powerful.

Good luck!