Public speaking can seem very intimidating. To deliver a comprehensive argument to your peers with time racing past you was never designed to be on our easy-to-do lists.
Delivering a first-class presentation is based around 2 major overarching factors: speaking style and delivery, and the content of the presentation and the strength of your argument. Using these steps you will be in a strong position to showcase your best work when delivering a PowerPoint.
Practise speaking and amend the presentation to improve delivery:
This is the most prominent area of preparation where neglecting delivery in favour of content could potentially cost you extra marks.
A well worded argument on paper can sound awkward when spoken directly, so you should always practice speaking and note which parts should be amended so that they still reflect your core argument but allow you deliver it smoothly in your speech.
Also structure the speech to reflect the practical aspects of delivering a presentation, including the times when you change slides and hand out visual aids.
Don’t be over-reliant on printed notes with exact wording:
The key to a successful presentation is that you understand your argument so well that you can describe it naturally without having to rely on a script. It is good for the audience to connect with you, which makes eye-contact essential and dependence on a script to be counter-productive. Likewise, if you try to remember all your words exactly then it will not sound natural to the audience, because a good description sounds very different on paper than it does in a real speech.
This will also be helpful if you are asked questions after the presentation is completed.
The 1 – 5 method for confident posture and poise:
When I used to stand before an audience I would shiver and shake just enough to distract them from the argument that I was trying to make. That was before I learned the 1 -5 technique for maintaining a calm posture and poise in front of my audience.
Before speaking just take a deep breath and imagine a semi-circle with 5 levels on it (with 1 as lowest and 5 as highest) inside your body which controls your energy and confidence. If you are nervous before a presentation then imagine you are on level 2. Every time you breathe out imagine that you are going up a level. Keep going until you imagine yourself at level 5.
It has been scientifically proven that focusing on your breathing can allow us to take a step back from our thoughts and regain control of our focus, which allows us to feel more calm and composed.
Speak as if the most important people are at the back of the room:
When you are concerned primarily with the content in your argument it is easy to neglect the delivery. I have on occasionally spoken so quietly and quickly that some of the audience did not understand the argument made in my presentation.
So I picture a single person in the very back of the room and I speak as if I was only addressing them.
Resist the temptation to deviate from a text-based presentation:
PowerPoint presentations can be very colourful, with a lot of pretty groovy graphics. However, the people who are watching and listening to your presentation want to understand the essence of your argument, and while images and videos can help convey your points and make them entertaining they must always remain an addition to your core evidence.
If some members of the audience are taking notes then they will appreciate it if you have written some explanation of your points so that they can take photos or just quick notes.
Write a full list of citations:
Please resist the temptation to be stingy with your referencing because it is a presentation.
According to my tutor’s reports, my tutor rewarded me for the “strong foundations of your argument, which could be easily referenced back to your sources”.
Having a text-based presentation also gives you’re an opportunity to showcase your thorough research and preparation, including in-text referencing throughout the slides.