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Tips for Effective Presentations

Have you been asked to give a presentation in a course seminar? The usual purposes of student presentations are to:

The best presentations use methods that suit the personal style of the presenter, the learning needs of the classmates, and the material to be presented.

The following guidelines can be used in planning an effective presentation.

1. Preparation

The requirements for content and organization of material are much the same as for an essay or written report. You must:

A good outline can help planning and organizing the content effectively.

Remember to have your supporting material prepared (page references or statistics clearly marked or listed on a handout or overhead). Make sure all of these illustrations are clearly related to your arguments or main points.

2. Presentation Style, Delivery of Content

Unlike an essay which can be read and reread, an oral presentation is transitory -- once spoken, it's gone. You must make every word count.

a) Capture

Your first words must capture the audience's attention, engage them, perhaps surprise them. Some good capture techniques are:

Make sure whatever method you choose is clearly related to the topic.

b) Purpose/Preview

Tell the class briefly what you are planning to do, and give them a preview of your main points -- this will focus their attention and help them to follow the presentation. They must feel confident that you will not waste their time, that you are well-organized and know your subject. This will motivate them to listen to you.

If the audience is unfamiliar with the topic and needs some background knowledge, give it to them now. This could be definitions of terms or factual information. If the ideas are difficult or complicated, use a handout, overhead, or blackboard diagram.

c) Style

It's good to...

Try not to...

d) Conclusion

Briefly summarize your main points and relate them to your thesis or opening. Prepare questions for the class to encourage discussion. Do not say "Any questions?" and walk away. Do not end with "Well, I guess that's it' and walk away.

Tie all your points together neatly and make them see why what you said was important, answer their questions competently, smile -- then walk away!

3. Presentation Aids

Audio-visual aids can be a great advantage for any oral presentation as long as you remember their one main purpose: to help make a point. They should not be used randomly, but should be chosen carefully to reinforce or illustrate your message in the best possible way.

Choose the medium that best suits your purpose from the following list:

Whatever you choose, remember the following:

Handouts can be very useful for the class. An outline with your main points can show your organizational plan and help your listeners to make notes. Make sure you prepare the handouts far enough in advance for them to be duplicated.

Advice to Listeners. Since the purpose of any oral presentation is to teach you, the listeners, facts or ideas, or to stimulate a discussion on a topic, you have a responsibility as an audience. Your task is first of all to support and accept the person making the presentation. You must read the required material ahead of time so that you have a general context and knowledge of the subject for the presentation. You must also be prepared to concentrate on what the presenter is saying. Listen and take notes during the presentation. Based on these notes, you can then ask and answer questions on the presentation.

Queen's University Instructional Development Centre
Room 101, Old Medical Building 545-6428

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Last updated June 24, 1997

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