Developing oral presentations

Giving presentations can be challenging but with careful planning they can also be an enjoyable part of university life. Learn how to develop successful presentations.

How to get started

Before you start preparing your talk, it is important to determine what the main point of your presentation is. Do you want to inform, convince, guide or entertain?

It can be useful to think about what resources you can use to support your ideas and what examples you can use to illustrate the points you are making. Thinking about these aspects early on can help in planning your presentation.

Who is your audience?

Knowing the audience that will be listening to you will help you get your message across more effectively – you will need to tailor your content to your audience.


An audience with a limited understanding of your subject.

  • How can you convey your message to an audience that is unfamiliar with your topic?
  • How much background information will you need to give?


An audience of your peers.

  • Is your presentation specialised or general?
  • How much will fellow students already know about your topic?


Audience at a conference in your field.

  • Does the conference cover a narrow or broad subject area?
  • Can you use jargon and how well do you need to define those terms?
  • What do you want the audience to take away from your talk?

How to structure your presentation

When thinking about what you need to convey in your presentation it is useful to start with a basic outline. This will ensure your presentation has a logical flow.

A useful starting point would be:


  • The hook – draw your audience in
  • Context – set the scene
  • The problem – what are you trying to solve?
  • How have you solved the problem?


  • 3-5 main points
  • The explanation, evidence and relevance of each main point


  • Summarise the presentation
  • Take-home message
  • What are the next steps?

How to design your slides

Great PowerPoint slides do not make a great oral presentation. The visual presentation should be based on the planned talk and not the other way round. Think about your slides last – they should assist you with the presentation, not be the presentation itself!


  • Select the right font and font size – easy to read and clear.
  • Avoid text heavy slides.
  • Be consistent.
  • Use CAPITAL letters for emphasis but don’t overdo it.
  • Use italics for quotations or to highlight thoughts and ideas.

We recommend:

Font: Arial, Tahoma or Verdana

Font size: 40 for titles, 32 for subtitles, content no smaller than 24.


  • Choose a colour scheme and be consistent.
  • The background should not make the text hard to read.

General tips

  • Your presentation slides should be a guide for what you are presenting.
  • Omit long texts. Use short sentences or bullet points.
  • Aim for a maximum of one slide per minute. You should not have 50 slides for a 15 minute presentation.
  • Aim to present one idea per slide.
  • Too much animation can be annoying.

Chunking information

Most people remember three to five things at a time. Chunking information can help you to recollect what to say and can help your audience to remember the main points. So …

  1. Chunk your whole presentation into three sections.
  2. Chunk each section into three chunks.
  3. Chunk your slides into a maximum of three points per slide.

Want to learn more?

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