The object of a presentation is to transmit information and opinions to an audience in your own words, within a limited amount of time.
A presentation is a form of communication with an audience. When you prepare for a presentation you must consider elements such as the situation for which the presentation is designed, the method that you will use, and the response that your audience will make. For example, situations might include sharing the results of your research in a class or seminar group, presenting an academic paper, or giving a report on recent activities to the members of your club.
How to prepare for a presentation
Presentations require preparation.
Unlike everyday conversation, presentations have a clear purpose and a logical structure. More formal language is used, and the delivery style is more dramatic. Therefore, in order to give an effective presentation, it is necessary to prepare carefully. Thorough preparation will also reduce one’s anxiety during the actual presentation.
Preparatory tasks for presentations closely resemble those required for writing reports.
Just as no one starts writing a report without any preparation, it is very risky to give a presentation without careful planning. Make sure that you start to prepare well before the actual day of the presentation.
Step 1: Understanding the aim of the presentation
• What is your presentation about?
First, think about the general purpose of your presentation. Clarify why you are giving the presentation: to introduce yourself to a new group, to explain your views on a controversial topic, to communicate the results of a survey, or for some other purpose.
• Who will you be targeting?
Is the audience made up of students, experts, or the general public? Analyze your audience. Consider what methods and delivery styles will be most effective for communicating with that audience.
Step 2: Deciding on a theme
Choose a theme that falls in line with the aim of the presentation. After deciding on a theme, you must next narrow it down to a size appropriate for the time available, the situation, the type of audience, and so on.
Step 3: Collecting information
Collect material for your presentation. Use the various information types that we have studied so far, including books and published papers, newspaper articles, statistical data, and information from the Internet. If background information on your theme is required, dictionaries and encyclopedias should be used.
Step 4: Formulating a structure
Once you have understood the aim of your presentation, decided on a theme, and collected information, you can start formulating a structure. The structure of a typical presentation is as follows:
You should write a script according to this structure. When writing your script, you should keep the following in mind:
• Write a story that will have the maximum effect
• Convey your message in a way that is easily understood by your target audience
The Introduction is the lead into the body of the presentation. The Introduction is for raising issues such as why you have taken up your topic, or why that topic is important. It also functions as a preparation for the body by providing background information such as an explanation of your research methods.
A good introduction will encourage the audience to listen to you and act as an effective opening to the presentation. The following techniques may help to make the introduction more impressive and dynamic:
• Reaching out to your audience by asking questions.
• Arousing interest by quoting effective words or facts.
Once you have got the audience’s attention, clarify the significance and purpose of your presentation while preparing the transition to the body.
Formulate an outline which will enable you to convey the key points and information that you would like to share with your audience in a manner that is easily understood. Then review the outline. Make sure that you can deal with all your key points in the time available. If necessary, reduce the number of key points by narrowing the focus of your topic.
Work out how to explain each key point in a clear and interesting way; for example, by using visuals and/or handouts.
In the body of the presentation, you will develop your argument using the evidence that you have collected.
Finally, check the following points:
• Are you making sense?
• Are there any parts of the body that are hard to understand?
• Are your points made clearly and concisely?
Now you are ready to make the conclusion.
In the conclusion, you should summarize the body by repeating the key points. Make sure that the audience will remember your message. If possible finish with a sentence that will make a lasting impression.
On the presentation day, make sure that you bring your script to the venue!
Step 5: Delivery
Once the script is completed, you can consider your delivery. What kind of delivery will help you to communicate with the audience, and encourage them to accept your arguments? Consider the following elements:
- Diction: Consider what kind of diction is appropriate.
- Voice level and tone: Choose a voice level and tone that will be effective and appropriate.
- Body language: Your posture, the direction that you face, and how you stand, are all messages in themselves.
- Gestures: Spontaneous gestures are preferred. You should avoid standing too rigidly or moving around too much.
- Eye contact: Try to make as much eye contact as possible. However, avoid staring at any one person.
Step 6: Rehearsal
Skilled presenters sometimes appear to be talking without looking at their scripts, and even to be improvising their lines. Looking at such performances, some may think “Hey; that looks easy. I’ll do the same thing”. Unfortunately, attempts to copy such performances mostly fail. Why? The reason is that repeated practice and experience is necessary to be able to speak in this way.
To acquire experience, you must give one presentation after another, but you should also rehearse as much as possible before each performance. After completing your script, go through it to check if there are any sections that should be corrected, such as jumps in the logic, omission of key points, and sections that are difficult to understand. Such portions should become clear if you read the script out loud. Also, use the rehearsals to check if your presentation is too short or too long for the allotted time.
• You should do the first rehearsals by yourself, and subsequently, perform before your friends or family. Portions that need to be improved will become more apparent if third parties listen to your presentation and make objective comments.
• Make your rehearsals effective by imagining the actual performance. Ideally, rehearsing should be done in an environment resembling the actual venue as closely as possible. If circumstances allow it, rehearse at the actual venue to check if you will be heard and seen by everyone in the audience.
During the presentation
If you are anxious or under-prepared, be sure not to actually say this to the audience as showing a lack of confidence can have a negative effect.
Remember the efforts you made in preparing for the presentation and use this to produce enough confidence to enable you to perform in an impressive manner.
While speaking, try to look at the audience as much as possible, so that you are actually communicating with them. Try to make your presentation something more than just words.
Lastly, enjoy (or at least, pretend to enjoy) giving your presentation!
Question and answer session
If there is time for a question-and-answer session at the end, it is a good idea to inform the audience at the beginning of your presentation. The audience will then listen to your presentation with the Q&A session in mind.
• Take a memo as you listen to each question.
• There may be instances when the question is audible to you, but not to the rest of audience. Repeat the gist of the question by starting your response with “Your question is…”
• Keep in mind that time restrictions apply to the Q&A session as well. You must sum up your discussion with the audience within the allotted time, answering each question in a concise and precise manner.
• Make sure the exchange does not become a full-scale debate. Always keep in mind that there are other people in the audience.
• When it is your turn to ask questions, make sure you do so effectively, in a concise and precise manner.
Step 7: Self-evaluation
You have successfully finished the presentation. How did the audience react? Were you able to fully communicate what you wanted to say? To apply what you have learned to future presentations, make sure you do a self-evaluation. If there are any points that you think require improvement, perform a thorough analysis of what happened, and consider what must be done to solve the problems.
Careful self-evaluation will raise the level of your next presentation.
Questions to consider during self-evaluation:
- Were you able to fulfill the objectives of your presentation?
- Were there any problems in your logic?
- Was your diction clear?
- Were your handouts and visual aids effective?
- Was your time management appropriate?
- Did you prepare and rehearse sufficiently?
Use the evaluation sheet on the following page as a guide towards self-evaluation.
|Criteria for the presentation||Comments by fellow Audience||Good||Average||Poor|
|Did you understand the presentation?|
|How did the colours that the presenter chose affect you and the rest of the audience?|
|Was the presentation lay-out good?|
|Was the power point presentation to over crowded with information and distracting?|
|Did the presenter make the purpose of the presentation clear to all?|
|Did the presenter take his audience and the level of the audience understanding into consideration?|
|Do you think that the presenter was knowledgeable and that he presented you with updated, accurate information?|
|Do you feel that the presentation had a clear introduction, body and conclusion?|
|Do you think that the presenter had enough time to rehears the presentation?|
|Did the presenter allow for a question and answer session at the end of the presentation?|
|Now give the person a rating out of 10.||/10|