Standing in front of a group to make a presentation can be stressful for many. Preparation helps to reduce that anxiety. Start preparing your presentation early to ensure you are comfortable with the material and confident in your plan to present it.

 

From Douglas College Learning Centre’s “Preparing for an Oral Presentation”

  • How long should the presentation be?

  • Are you expected to take a point-of-view and support that point-of-view or should you just give information about your topic without taking a particular position?

  • Are you expected to do research and/or just use your own knowledge?

  • Does your instructor have requirements outlining the number and type of sources you are supposed to use?

  • Does your instructor have expectations about supporting visual material such as PowerPoint presentations, graphs, maps or handouts?

  • What are the instructor’s criteria for an excellent presentation?

 

  • If you can, select a topic that interests you. Speakers tend to do a better job when they speak about something they care about.

  • For topic ideas, start by looking in your textbook. Look over the headings in your text. Another good source of ideas is your lecture notes.

  • Once you’ve decided on or have been given your topic, you probably need to focus it more. Trying to do a short presentation of 5 or 10 minutes on a general subject like global warming is a mistake. Narrow your topic so that you can explore it in some depth within your time limit.

  • To narrow your topic, create questions about it using question words “Who,” “What,” “When,” “Where,” “Why” and “How.” For example, “How does global warming threaten polar bear survival in the Canadian Arctic?”

  • When you have found one or a few related questions that you think are interesting, you are probably ready to begin gathering your information.

 

  • How much does your audience already know about your topic? You don’t want to tell them what they already know. Alternatively, you need to make sure your audience has the background knowledge to understand your ideas. You may need to define key terms and concepts.

  • Will your audience be interested in your topic, or do you need to put a lot of effort into motivating them to listen? Do you need to change your topic or find a more interesting angle to engage their interest?

  • How will your topic be useful for your audience? Tell them why they want to know what you are going to tell them. For example, “It’s important to know about the effects of global warming in the Arctic because it shows what will happen here in the future.”

 

  • For most presentations, you need to start by doing some general research at the library and/or online.

  • This may involve reading a section of your text, consulting a specialized encyclopedia in the library or skimming a book chapter on your topic. This should build your background knowledge and give you an idea of some of the sub-topics you may want to include in your presentation.

  • Once you’ve identified those sub-topics, check that there is information available about them. This involves looking for useful resources.

  • If you have difficulty finding resources, you may need help in developing your research skills. Ask at the Information Desk in the library for help if you need it.

  • Once you are confident there is enough information available on your topic, begin to make notes on your sources. A good way is to take notes for each of the sub-topics you identified.

 

  • Using the gathered information, make an outline for your presentation by making notes of the main points you want to make and the specific facts, quotes or explanations you want to use to support those points.

  • Organize your ideas into an introduction, a body and a conclusion.

 

  • Use notes to think about the ideas as you talk. This makes your presentation much more effective than one that is memorized or read.

  • Don’t try to write out every word of your presentation and then read it or memorize it. Those strategies do not usually lead to effective presentations.

  • Make presentation notes containing just keywords and ideas.

  • Put your notes on index cards (number the cards in case they get out of order), or on paper.

  • Use visuals to help make your organization clear, to emphasize important points, to illustrate key points, to introduce humour and to help listeners understand you better.

  • Consider using overheads, handouts, PowerPoint, a whiteboard and videos.

 

  • Practise often to make your presentation smooth and understandable. It will also make you more confident and familiar with the information.

  • While practising, you will find aspects of the presentation that need revision. Maybe you need to add in some more details, change the order of ideas, or come up with some added visuals. Look for ways you could revise it to make it more effective. Alter your notes as needed.

  • Once you feel comfortable with the content and organization, practise again focusing on your presentation speed. Remember that your audience needs time to think about your ideas. Don’t be afraid of a few seconds of silence here and there.

  • Time yourself and adjust your content to make it fit within the time limit. This is very important. If you go over-time, it may negatively impact others who come after you. You may also lose marks for it.

  • Make sure you know how to pronounce specialized words in your presentation. Check the pronunciation in a dictionary or ask your teacher or a Learning Centre tutor.

  • Practise again with your visual aids.

  • Present to a real person. This can be a classmate, a tutor or even your little sister. Work on making eye contact with your audience. Do not hide behind your notes. Making eye contact with your audience is essential for the effectiveness of your presentation.

  • Present in the room you are going to do it in, and check that any equipment you plan to use works. Pay attention to speaking loudly enough and looking around the room while you present.