Essential tips for your first or next class presentation

Are you nervous about your upcoming in-class presentation? If you are or need some help in preparing better for your presentation, I will offer you some tips that have helped and help me in my presentations. A big secret to making good presentation is practice: practice your material minimally several times before your presentation.

In my every class, there was at least one student presentation (or group of student presentation) that was not adequately prepared. For instance, one of the students, in my mobile computing class, did not know how to explain a graphic from his slide. In one other example, one student talked about most of his slides worth of presentation on just one intro slide and then did not have much to say for the subsequent slides. This and other pitfalls can be avoided with the tips below. Please read and understand the whole post before starting to plan for your next presentation!

These tips concern how you prepare for the presentation. Preparations are essential part of successful outcomes. Prior to the presentation:

  1. practice your material thoroughly
  2. use in your slides only the material you will actually talk about in the presentation
  3. make sure you can answer questions on your presentation material. Expect all kinds of questions.
  4. make your slides easier to understand and read
  5. use index cards to take notes of important points for each slide. Also jot down any questions you may want to ask the class audience
  6. do at least one complete pretend presentation prior to the actual presentation. Make sure you can finish your presentation in the allotted time. (Leave room for questions or comments). In your pretend presentation, remember to sync your talk with your slide.
  7. if this is a group presentation, have everyone make a pretend presentation, if possible. Everyone should know his/her material. Know who will be advancing the presentation slider (meaning who will be clicking next or previous). Also, remember to have each presenter make the transition to the next speaker as smooth as possible.
  8. make sure your presentation computer is ready for your presentation. If you are using a classroom computer for your presentation, make sure it has the software required for your presentation. If you are presenting from your own computer, make sure you can properly connect to the class room technology equipments. (One group in my class realized they could not connect a Mac to the class room projector! They had a difficult time making their presentation after converting to a PowerPoint [as some features of their native presentation software were lost in the conversion.].) Check in advance you can get internet connection in advance with your computer, if you need internet connection for your presentation.

Preparations alone won’t guarantee success in your presentations. The most difficult part probably is the actual presentation. If you have prepared your material well, you are likely to present adequately. These tips are for what to during the presentation:

  1. Start with a good introduction.
    If you successfully build interest of your audience into your presentation, chances are the audience will listen to your whole presentation. This should be part.
  2. Speak up to ensure you are heard
    Make sure everyone can hear you in the room as you are center of the attention. Avoid giving a talk in soft or whispery tones as this will be sign of anxiety.
  3. Encourage questions as you present
    Ask students to ask you questions. Many professors require students to participate in presentation so you can expect questions as part of your presentation. Questions will keep everyone alert and focused on your presentation, as participation is expected from the entire class. Ask your questions to the class, if necessary and time permitting. When you get a response from the audience, listen carefully and offer your thoughts on it to continue.
  4. Make eye contact with the students
    I have been in many presentations where students just read their notes or the computer monitor screen (caution: don't point at your monitor screen during the presentation because students won't know what you are pointing at as they can only see the projector screen!). Make sure you make your eye contact with a student for a brief period of time and move to the next student at random.
  5. Use your index cards notes when necessary
    Don't make your presentation by just reading from your index cards or from slides! Look at your notes very briefly and infrequently as possible.
  6. Keep yourself in motion
    While presenting take a few steps back or forward. Change your position frequently. This will help everyone to make sure you are not blocking anyone's view from seeing the slide screen. Point to the slides when appropriate. Making yourself in the move helps other students focus on you.
  7. Use appropriate hand language
    Use natural hand gestures to add personality to your talk
  8. Talk with confidence, feeling and just be yourself
    Use your eyes and facial expressions to convey feeling. Avoid having a blank face or talk in a dull monotone. If you deliver with feeling and confidence, your talk will go over far better with the class audience.
  9. Make sure to leave some time for question-and-answer session at the end of your presentation
    If no one asked questions earlier in your presentation, now would be a good time to invite questions from other students. Inviting questions conveys the impression that you know your material. Keep the question and answer session to be within your time limits of your presentation. In other words, if you have strict twenty minutes for the whole presentation (15 minutes for presentation and 5 minutes for questions and answer session), make sure you don't go over your five minutes limit unless it is acceptable to your instructor. Cut down on your questions if you see yourself running short on time when time is of essence. Don’t' forget you have the last word for each answer you receive.
Posted on 4/28/2007
by Raj Singh