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Presentation skills

Good presentation skills are useful for critiques, assessments, interviews, applications (for funding or jobs), presenting proposals or research findings, selling your work and many other professional practice instances. In order to plan and present a topic effectively, you will need to:

  • Check the brief
    • Be aware of the assessment criteria.
    • Make sure you are going to fulfil all requirements of the brief.
    • Be aware of any time allocations for the presentation.
  • Plan the content of your presentation
    • Identify your main aims, themes and issues. Use these to select what you are going to present. Consider the main points and ensure 
      everything you present is relevant.
    • Consider the visual impact of your material and identify appropriate visual props.
    • Make sure you organise and book the appropriate resources you will need (for example, a digital projector).
    • Gather the evidence you will need to support your presentation.
  • Organise the presentation
    • It might be appropriate to prepare a brief statement about your work in order to contextualise it.
    • Prepare a brief introduction to what you are going to present.
    • Structutre what you are going to say but using an ordered list of key points/headings, with bullet points or notes that link to your visual cues.
    • Prepare a short summary to close.
    • Anticipate questions and have answers prepared.
  • Before the presentation
    • Rehearse and time your presentation (this will help you feel more relaxed and confident).
    • Organise your cue cards or notes.
    • Organise someone to record your feedback for you.
    • Allow time to compose yourself before your presentation - do not work up to the last minute!
  • Giving the presentation
    • Approach your presentation with a positive attitude - never apologise or make excuses.
    • Keep to your plan and don't get side-tracked.
    • Speak slowly and clearly - use pauses.
    • Try not to turn your back to your audience.
    • Make eye contact.
    • Be open to positive and negative feedback. Try not to be defensive.

    Avoid:

    • Simply reading large amounts of text from the slides.
    • Reading large amounts of text from your own notes.
  • After the presentation
    • Listen to other people's presentations and jot down anything you find useful.
    • Note how other people approached giving their presentation.
    • Note the feedback on your own presentation.
    • Evaluate and reflect on what you have learnt and what you might do differently next time.

Giving a PowerPoint Presentation

If you decide to use PowerPoint or some other computer based presentation programme, you will need to consider how your visual material, text and what you are going to say work together to present your ideas clearly.

  • Use of visuals or slides
    • Your slides should be prompts for what you intend to say.
    • Be prepared to elaborate upon the points you have made on your slides.
    • Consider how many slides you will need. Allocate time to talk about each slide.
    • Consider whether your slides communicate your ideas effectively.
    • Consider whether your use of background colour, font, colour of text and size of images give continuity to your presentation. You might want to use a design template to establish continuity.
    • Be consistent with effects, transitions and animations. Don't allow the format to detract from the message.
  • Use of text

    Short headings or bullet points are generally the most effective way to clarify your main points. Avoid long sentences or dense sections of text. You want your audience to listen to you, not be distracted by trying to read long sections of text.

    Font sizes 18 to 48 are recommended for clarity, but do not use more than 3 font sizes - you want audience to read the content, not get distracted by the formatting. Larger font sizes can be used as headings or to indicate more important information. Overly elaborate fonts are harder to read, and using all capitals comes across as 'shouting'.

    Remember, both visual and textual sources need to be referenced according to the UCA Harvard system.

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