Giving a presentation is, for many students, a stressful experience; even the most studious of us can find ourselves lost for words when faced with a roomful of expectant faces, gazing out in quiet anticipation.
But being able to give an oral presentation is vital for your education and can help your career prospects. Rather than feeling nervous about it, you should therefore think of giving a talk as a chance to develop your communication and presentation skills.
There are plenty of things you can do to make giving a presentation go smoothly too, including the following…
Practice, Practice, Practice!
It’s an obvious place to start, but practicing your presentation will help make sure it goes perfectly on the day. Factors to consider include timing, the structure of your talk and the kind of questions your audience might ask.
You should try reading your presentation out loud, as if to an audience. If you have a few willing friends, they could even listen, ask questions and give you feedback. Alternatively, you could also give your presentation to the mirror or record yourself and listen back afterwards.
On the day before your presentation, try to get a good night’s rest. Likewise, on the day, make sure you eat healthily so you’ll have the energy required to engage with your audience.
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Moreover, try to turn up around fifteen minutes before your presentation is due to begin, or however long you need to settle in and set up any resources you plan to use, such as laptops, projectors or handouts.
Easier said than done sometimes, but even pretending to feel confident will help you communicate clearly while giving your presentation. Good tips include dressing smartly, making eye contact with your audience and not feeling like you have to apologize for yourself.
If you need a moment to gather your thoughts at any point, stopping briefly to take a sip of water will allow you to think (and keep you hydrated). This can be especially helpful when answering audience questions.
It’s important to make yourself heard when giving a presentation. This means addressing the entire audience (not just the first row), speaking at a steady pace (not rushing) and vocalizing clearly (not speaking into your chest). It’s a good idea to have notes to guide your presentation, but try not to just read them out loud, as this is often unengaging for an audience.
Use Visual Aids
These days, most presentations are accompanied by visual aids, such as hand outs and PowerPoint slideshows. These can be a great addition to your talk, but try not to rely on them too much.