Learn how to showcase your research in a way that engages and captivates your audience.
First impressions count
- 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.
Making 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.
Using 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.
Using your voice
- 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.
Engaging 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.
- 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.
Dealing with nerves
- Be organised
- Know your content
- Get familiar with the technology and venue
- Dress appropriately
- Remember the audience is on your side
- Do positive visualisation
- Act confident even if you do not feel it
- Reframe your nerves as excitement