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Techniques and Strategies
This guide provides students with techniques and strategies on how to give informative and effective presentations, as well as tips on how to overcome the fear of public speaking. In most degrees, being able to give a presentation is a key academic skill that students are required to learn and demonstrate, which in turn serves students well in future employment.
Presentations need to be structured with an informative introduction, a logical order of key points and a reasoned conclusion.
Below are some possible ideas for your presentation structure –
Introduction - tell them what you are going to tell them
Outline your talk:
- Provide a ‘map’ of your ideas with some ‘signposts’ that they can follow
- Stick to this structure throughout
Get the audience’s attention:
- Ask a thought provoking question or state an unusual/dramatic fact, if appropriate
- Tell a story/anecdote or give a quotation
- State a need or outline a problem
- Show an exhibit or visual aid
Motivate the audience:
- Give them a reason for listening (what is in it for them?)
- Create a sense of importance or occasion; what you are going to say matters
Main Body - tell them
Arrange your ideas logically:
- Start with a problem/issue and then offer a solution
- Arrange ideas/information under topic headings
- Compare 2 or more ideas/proposals and then suggest which one is ‘best’
Select supporting material:
- Research material to back up your points or add variety and interest to your presentation, for example:
- statistics, charts and graphs
- audio-visual aids
- references to academic arguments/theories/research
Conclusion - Tell them what you have told them
- Summarise the purpose of your talk and/or repeat key points as appropriate
- You may wish to let the audience know in advance when you will be taking questions
End with a memorable statement:
- Return to your opening statement and answer any question you posed
- End on a new statement (in contrast to opener)
- Look to the future and/or call for action
- Offer a challenge (subtle or direct)
- Appeal for help or co-operation on an issue
Signposting and Transitioning Between Slides
As well as a logical order of key points, the presenter will need to use transitions and signposting language to help the audience navigate the presentation. Transitions can include non-verbal actions such as changing slides and pausing, but should also include spoken cues. For example:
"I will start by discussing..."
"a similar issue to consider is..."
"now that I have explored... I will now consider..."
"In contrast to my earlier consideration of..."
"moving away from..."
"it can be concluded that..."
Delivering great presentations
These videos from LinkedIn Learning address ways in which you may overcome the fear of public speaking and present confidently.
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Know Your Audience
What is the purpose of making a presentation?
- Persuasion - (transferable employability skill):
- The main goal of a presentation is to inform and then persuade your audience (and your marker) that your argument/ideas/interpretations/findings are valid!
- In order to be effective in persuading those you are presenting to, it is important to firstly know what the purpose of making the presentation is and therefore ask yourself what you are wanting to persuade the audience of in the process. Secondly, it will help you to be persuasive if you know who the audience is going to be.
- When presenting, you want to connect with your audience and understand why your topic is going to be important to them. What are you wanting them to learn from your presentation? Never assume that your audience has the same knowledge as you do, or the same experiences. Your audience will likely be diverse, with different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, and areas of expertise. The more you understand them, the more capable you will be of articulating yourself to them and avoiding mistakes. Consider the level of knowledge your audience will have of your topic as this will help you to gage the right tone for your presentation to ensure that you keep the audience interested and engaged. For example, the audience could feel quite offended if you present basic information on your topic when they are highly knowledgeable in that area, and similarly, an audience who has never explored your topic may become lost and confused with your arguments, and in turn disengaged with your presentation, if you do not first clarify and provide them with a basic understanding of your topic.
Public Speaking Tips
- Speak slowly but clearly as this makes it easier for your audience to understand. Try not to rush through your presentation to get it ‘over and done with’.
- Make eye contact with different members of your audience and vary who you look at. Avoid looking or staring at individuals for too long, or seeking out your friends amongst the audience.
- Try to speak as fluidly and fluently as possible. Stay calm and take deep breaths through your nose if you are nervous. Use changes of slide or moving from one point to another to pause and collect your thoughts.
- Don’t worry too much if you make mistakes or mispronounce something. Correct yourself slowly, calmly and confidently then keep on going.
- If you're concerned about showing visible signs of nerves, using a folder with see-through slips to insert your notes into can help so that you're holding something sturdier than paper alone. The audience will not be able to see your hands shaking now.
- Equally, mistakes do happen, even to the best of us. Your audience can sense your nerves and this can create tension between you and the audience. If something goes wrong, if you panic and become flustered and stressed, those feelings can cause tension and anxiety in the audience too. Try to relieve this tension by making a joke out of it - the best defense for a mistake is humor and this will bring ease to your audience too, along with building rapport. For example, if the PowerPoint is not working, or technology is failing, laugh about it and use it as a way to relate to your audience, as the chances are, we've all been there and had technology mishaps.
- Never read directly from your notes or read a completely scripted speech, this will make your presentation seem wooden and alienate you from your audience.
- You might want to use prompt cards with brief notes on them to help you remember the details of your presentation. Make sure you write clearly and in large enough print so the cards are easy to read. Number your cards so you can identify the sequence easily. If you are using PowerPoint, you could print out a handout of your slides and write notes in red or blue pen next to each slide.
- Before the presentation, practice in front of a friend, colleagues, a mirror or video yourself. If possible, get feedback on your style and approach as well as the content of your presentation. This will give you more confidence for the actual day.
- Levin, P. and Topping, G. (2006) Perfect presentations! Maidenhead: Open University Press
- McCarthy, P. and Hatcher, C. (2002) Presentation skills: the essential guide for students. London: Sage
- Van Emden, J. and Becker, L.(2004) Presentation skills for students. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan