Speaking skills and presentations
Help and advice
You might need to present your work or ideas to your class throughout your studies. Browse our tips to become a confident and successful presenter.
This advice applied to most types of presentation you'll encounter at university.
Planning your presentation
Things to think about before your presentation:
- You have a time limit for a reason. Choose your presentation content carefully to make sure you fully answer your brief in the time limit. You'll struggle to finish your presentation if you try to include unnecessary detail or cover everything about a topic.
- Rehearse out loud. Practice speaking. Time your presentation. Go over your key points every time you rehearse to help you remember them. You'll improve your confidence and find it easier to stay on track while you're presenting.
- Know your material. Use written prompts or information on your presentation slides to highlight key points and help your audience, rather than to inform you about your subject. Avoid using a printed script – if you lose your place in a script it's difficult to get back on track. Learning your content will mean you look more confident during your presentation and help you recover if you end up off track.
- Use diagrams, images and other visual aids. Use visual aids like presentation slides to add value to your presentation and help your audience understand your subject. Avoid excessive videos, animations, or images – visual aids are here to support you rather than take attention away from you speaking. Remember your audience will be focused on content and not on you.
- Use clear signposting. Signposting means using phrases like, "First of all...", "Next..." and "Does anyone have any questions?" to guide your audience through your presentation. Phrases like this help your audience understand the structure of your argument and remember your key points, and make it clear when listeners can ask questions, start a discussion, or engage with you or the content directly. Download our signposting revision sheet below for prompts to use in your presentation.
- Warm up your voice. Drink still water and make sure your presentation isn't the first thing you say in the morning.
Things to remember during your presentation:
- Face the audience. If you're using presentation slides stand at about 45 degrees to the screen so you can draw the audience's attention to the slide without blocking their view or turning around fully.
- Look up. Making eye contact and engaging with your audience will make you look confident and approachable, which is important if you want your peers to ask questions at the end of your presentation. If you're nervous, start by glancing up from your notes at the audience between points key or during slide changes. Move your gaze around while you're speaking. Keeping your gaze level with the forehead of the person farthest away from you can help you avoid eye contact.
- Speak slowly. Being nervous can make you speak faster without realising – keep a steady pace to help your audience follow your presentation.
- Pause at the ends of key points and slides. Use this time to take a breath and prepare for your next slides. This gives the audience time to engage with your content and will help them remember it.
- Allow time for questions at the end. Some assessments require you to answer questions from your peers after your presentation, so plan time for this. Arrange for a friend in the audience to ask you a question you've planned in advance so you already know the answer. Also allow time for slide changes, visual aids, changing speakers in group presentations and speaking more slowly. Rehearsing together will help with this.