Delivering a great presentation

Learn how to showcase your research in a way that engages and captivates your audience.

How to start your presentation

  • Engage the audience – pause, smile, make eye contact.
  • Practice a strong opening – slow and clear, with a good hook.
  • Thank the previous speaker if you have been introduced.
  • Be confident. Do not apologise, do not panic and be calm if you make a mistake.

Make eye contact

Making eye contact helps with reading the audience – see how they react. Tips for eye contact with large groups:

  • Treat your presentation like a series of five-second mini conversations.
  • Avoid reading slides or notes.
  • Avoid darting your eyes or swiveling your head.
  • Avoid staring at a specific person for too long.
  • Have a friend in the audience to give encouragement.

Use body language

  • Appropriate dress code – helps you feel confident and relaxed.
  • Breathe – this helps you to relax.
  • Posture – shoulders back, head up.
  • Feet planted firmly on ground  do not sway or shift nervously.
  • Make purposeful movements – hand gestures to emphasise words, point to draw attention to slides, slow pacing around stage if necessary to keep eye contact.
  • Do not fidget – distracting, repetitive movements show your nerves.

How to use your voice effectively

  • Tone – placing stress or emphasis on key words.
  • Pacing – do not talk too fast, slow down even further to emphasise important points.
  • Pause – adds emphasis, lets you breathe, catch your thoughts, allows the audience to catch up.
  • Do not mumble.
  • Use confident statements  do not say things like ‘I guess you all know about …’
  • Use a conversational style and tone.
  • Aim for clear pronunciation.

How to engage the audience

  • Use voice and body language to keep attention on you.
  • Use visual aids to support your story, not to tell it – do not let slides distract your audience.
  • Include audience participation – rhetorical or non-rhetorical questions (you can just ask for show of hands), short discussion with your partner.
  • Watch audience reactions and adjust pace accordingly – e.g., a whispering audience may mean you need to clarify yourself.
  • Try not to get distracted by latecomers or early leavers.

How to respond to questions

  • Listen carefully to understand the question – ask for clarification if you are unsure.
  • Pause to think about your answer.
  • Keep your answer brief – do not start a long discussion with one person.
  • Offer to meet afterwards for more discussion.
  • Be honest if you do not know the answer.

How to deal with nerves

  • Practice
  • Be organised
  • Know your content
  • Get familiar with the technology and venue
  • Dress appropriately
  • Breathe
  • Remember the audience is on your side
  • Do positive visualisation
  • Act confident even if you do not feel it
  • Reframe your nerves as excitement
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