Tips for students giving their first presentation at university
First presentation assignment can give you an anxious feelings that you have to bear with. Despite all the hard work and preparation to perform the best, you just can't help thinking about what could go wrong. And the frightening feelings of all eyes on you when you are standing out there, just keep on haunting you.
Follows are a few tips on how you can deal with it, to loosen up that tightness, boost up your confidence and stay calm.
1. Understand the purpose
Understanding the purpose of the presentation assignment gives you the momentum to work out your best and try to gain most out of it. After all it is a learning process. Nobody expects excellence from a first-timer. So it is okay to be yourself, a learner. Generally, the purpose is to increase your understanding of the topic assigned and also to develop your oral communication skills. Therefore, just go for it and improve as you learn.
2. Clear and relevant content
When doing the analysis and research on the topic assigned to you, make sure you already have a clear idea of the objective of your presentation and who your audience will be. Presenting a proposal requires different structure compare to presenting an essay. Similarly, presenting to a group of lecturers or corporate people requires a different approach compare to when you are presenting to your fellow students. When you gather your information make sure they are relevant, within the scope, with examples and supporting evidence. Elaborate each key point with simple language, don't use too much jargon. The length of time given for the presentation, should help you to determine how detailed you should go. Don't waste too much time on facts and figures for a five minutes presentation.
3. Use visual aids to make your point clearer
Using visuals aids in your presentation helps you to convey your points better. Put your key points in text. Each slide should not have more than five key points. Support your key points with diagrams, charts, or graphics. The size of the graphic or diagram should be big enough for the audience to read and understand. The layout should be simple and consistent. While the text and background should be in contrasting colors to increase readability.
4. Keep your audience engaged through eye contact and your voice
As you speak, look at your audience. Make an eye contact with them. Your voice should be loud enough and the pronunciation should be clear. Do not speak too fast or too slow, just good enough for your audience to grab your message and to prevent them from losing focus. Vary your tone as you progress through the presentation. Emphasize important points with a higher tone.
5. Help your audience follow you throughout the presentation by using signposting phrases
Making sure your audience know where you are in the presentation is important. You don't want your audience to be lost. Let them know what they will go through by introducing your presentation outline early in your presentation. Preferably have them written on the white board or pinned up on a board all the time during the presentation. As you progress from a section to another, let your audience know when it is happening by using signposting phrase such as “We'll now move on to...”. And when you are emphasizing an important point, let them know specifically by saying for instance, “The important thing here is...” or “As you might notice...”. Signposting phrases are important in ensuring a smooth continuation in your presentation, without which it will be jerky and your audience will be confused.
6. Practice, and keep on practicing
Once you have the content and the visual aids done and ready for the presentation, you can start practicing for the big day. If possible practice it in front of a small group of audience. Get feedback from your audience. Practicing is important in order to improve your fluency, to check your pace and timing, and to identify any problem.
7. Make a checklist for the presentation
List down all the things that you need during the presentation. A marker, a white board, a computer, a projector, Microsoft PowerPoint installed, PowerPoint file of the presentation, 25 copies of handouts, are examples of the things that will be listed in the checklist. Before the presentation begin make sure all are there, working and usable. Avoid yourself from being panic by being organized. Furthermore, an organized presentation shows professionalism.
8. Be in controlled during presentation
Try to be your best during the presentation. Take a deep breath if you feel nervous. Undeniably, starting is the most difficult part. To break the ice, smile and look at you audience. Feel yourself standing up straight comfortably. Then, with a smile, greet them and continue with your introduction. When talking to your audience focus on the knowledge you are conveying. Show your interest on sharing the knowledge with them. Try to enjoy your own presentation. Because if you don't, nobody will. As you talk to your audience, make an eye contact regularly. Be aware of their reaction. If most of them are not focusing on your presentation, try to attract their attention by asking question. Ask for their opinion on the subject matter or on anything that you can relate to your presentation. If you can't think of anything to ask, write the keywords of the part you are talking about on the white board, big enough to draw their attention and to make them think.
9. Be open and be prepared for questions from audience
At the end of your presentation, open the floor for questions. When being questioned, If you don't understand the question, do not hesitate to ask for clarification. Once you understand it, repeat or rephrase it back to the audience to ensure everybody heard and understand the question. If you don't know the answer, say so and tell them that you'll make a research on it. Advisably, to be prepared for this section, try to anticipate likely questions and prepare the answers in advanced.
In conclusion, the key points here are to understand the purpose, be prepared, keep on practicing and be in controlled. On the day of the presentation, do not panic when something unexpected happens. Just go with what you have and trust yourself on that. Whatever that goes wrong or any last minute changes that occurs, nobody can help you except yourself. Use your creativity and eagerness to share what you have, to move on, no matter what the obstacle is. The most important thing is not to panic. Just be resourceful.
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