Preparing for a Presentation

Preparation is key for success.

The more prepared you are, the better chance of success.

Doing presentations at school or university is a great way to practice and gain confidence before doing one in an interview for a job or graduate scheme.

During your time at school and university, you will be asked to give a presentation. Whatever the topic, you will be presenting to your tutor and fellow students. Some people may not find that too daunting, but others will be understandably anxious – getting up and making your case in front of an audience isn’t easy, especially when you’re not used to it.  

However you feel, it’s a good idea to improve your skills and become comfortable with the format, as many graduate employers use presentations as part of the recruitment process.

To help ensure that your presentation stands out, follow our tips on preparing for presentations.

Prepare carefully

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare thoroughly, as a last-minute rush will leave you flustered when it comes to delivering your presentation. Gather the information you need and set it out in a logical order, with a clear introduction and conclusion. Don’t rely on your notes on the day of the presentation as reading from prepared text sounds unnatural.

Use Visuals Wisely

Visuals should complement your oral presentation. Your slides should offer a summary of points or an illustration supporting the concept that you’re discussing. Make sure you use a clear and suitable sized font. Include short phrases and sentences so you don’t overcrowd your slides.

If you intend to provide hand-outs for your audience, distribute them at the beginning or end of your presentation. Doing it halfway through can be distracting and disrupt your flow.

Consider your audience

To pitch your presentation well, it’s important to know your audience. Your presentation shouldn’t include content covered in lectures and readings. Spending the first half of your presentation telling an audience what they already know is impractical. Even if you go straight into detail, they could become confused, therefore it’s key to get the balance right and show you have thought about the audience.

Practice

You should run through your presentation in full more than once, ideally in front of an audience. Visit the room in advance if you can, and ask a friend to sit at the back, checking the speed and clarity of your speech. Make sure the visuals of your presentation are visible.

Be Positive

Develop a positive attitude leading up to the days of the presentation. This may seem obvious and easier said than done if you’re shy but pull it off and it will make a huge difference to how you perform. Acknowledge your nervousness but don’t give in to negative thinking.

Don’t rely on technology

We’ve all witnessed the pain of a presenter struggling with a faulty USB stick or failing to get a projector to work. However, with a little bit of planning, you can minimise the risk of technology tripping you up. If possible, test your presentation beforehand with the same equipment that you’ll be using. Or try to arrive early on the day and have a run through.  

You should have back-ups of your documents and print out a few copies of the slides to share if things don’t go according to plan.  However, don’t rely too much on your slides as you should be prepared to present without them if necessary, using your notes or index cards as memory aids.

There are other aspects to consider when preparing for a presentation:

Plan for Success

Part of the preparation process is planning for success. This is about getting yourself into a state of belief. Belief in yourself that you can accomplish the task before you.

Understand the objective

When preparing for presentations, there are objectives that must be met. Make sure you understand what you are preparing for. Ask yourself questions, for example, “Do I know what it is I’m trying to accomplish?”.

Focus

During your preparation concentrate on what you need to do to succeed.

Pace Yourself

Preparation isn’t all about seeing how fast you can get it all done. It’s more important to focus on doing it right. Prepare for success by pacing yourself. This involves going over one area many times, to get it right.