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Oral Presentation

During your studies, you will have to prepare oral presentations, either as part of a course or in an oral exam. The more you train your oral presentation skills, the more calm and experienced you will become.

Just as being a good presenter can be useful during your studies, it can also be necessary in your student job or future career.

Practice, practice, practice

Becoming a good presenter requires practice and preparation. The more you practice, the better you get. Consider the following 3 steps when you are going to do an oral presentation:

  • What are your main points?
  • How do you structure it?
  • How much time do you have?
  • Who are you talking to? Who is your audience?
  • Make sure you introduce your presentation (what are you going to present?) - then make your argumentation and show your findings - conclude your presentation by summarizing or making a conclusion of your work.

  • Talk in short sentences
  • Divide your presentation into parts
  • Be specific
  • Prepare by speaking your presentation out loud - for instance to a friend or someone else
  • Saying it out loud makes you aware of what it is you really want to say during your presentation

  • What went well?
  • How can you improve next time?
  • Get feedback from your audience - what did they think?

Nervousness at presentations

Everyone can get nervous when they are going to do a presentation. No matter how many times you have done it, you can get nervous due to different biological, social and psychological factors. Often you get nervous because you want to perform well at the presentation.

One of the most important things when dealing with nervousness is accepting it! It is not going to disappear, and the more you focus on it, the more it will become apparent. It is always a good idea to imagine yourself doing the presentation in the room where it is supposed to take place.

Read more about handling nervousness here.

Oral Presentations in Groups

Often, you will have to do a presentation in a group. Consider if you are all going to talk, or if only one of you will do the presentation.

If you all participate in the presentation, make sure that all group members are engaged in the presentation - also when it is not their turn to talk. Look at the person speaking, to help your audience focus and not draw attention away from the presentation.

Tools to support your presentation

When you do a presentation, it can be helpful to have tools to support you. However, it is important that these tools do support, rather than draw attention from, your presentation.

Many presentations are done with slides. This can be a good way to engage your audience, and to support the structure of your presentation. It can also help you remember what you are going to say next. But be careful not to create slides that will disturb your presentation. Do not add too much text, as it will be hard for the audience to both read the text on the slides and listen to what you are saying.

Some people prefer having small cards with notes on them. This can be a great way to help you keep focus on the structure of the presentation. It can be helpful to have only one main point on each card.

A different useful tool can be meta communication. Meta communication is when you communicate about your presentation at your presentation. An example of meta communication can be explaining the structure of the presentation from the beginning ("First, I will present you with ... Then we shall see how ... The presentation will be concluded with a summary ... And then you can ask questions ...")

You can also meta communicate about other things. If you articulate it yourself, people can focus on what you are actually saying, rather than focusing on your nervousness.