“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca, leading US automobile executive.
Giving presentations is a vital skill that you’ll need in your studies and in your future work. We asked a group of Bath students to share their personal experiences and tips on giving presentations and have created a practical short course to help you prepare and deliver presentations like a pro.
Have you already had to give an assessed presentation, either on your own or in a group, as part of your course? Was it face-to-face or online? How did you find the experience?
Lots of people feel nervous and anxious about being in the spotlight in front of other people - that's completely normal! Being nervous shows that you care about your ‘performance’.
“When a performer doesn’t get nervous, that’s when you have to give up.”
– Sir Bruce Forsyth, entertainer.
Like lots of things, there’s a knack to giving presentations. Once you learn how to structure your presentation and some ‘tricks of the trade’, you’ll feel much more confident. And don’t worry if your presentation doesn’t go 100% to plan - practise definitely makes perfect. Use every presentation as an opportunity to learn and you’ll hone your skills over time.
The good news is, the skills and confidence you develop whilst at university will stand you in good stead when you go for job interviews and throughout your future career.
We asked a group of four undergraduate students for their experiences and hacks on giving presentations. Here’s a summary of what they said:
- Presentations at uni will range in length, format and size of audience. They'll usually be assessed and will crop up in most years.
- You might not have much time to prepare your presentation but you should be given an assessment sheet so you know what your tutor is looking for.
- The tutor will be looking out for things like body language and your language style in your presentation so delivery is just as important as content.
- If giving a group presentation, it's really important to work well as a team, have a clear goal, and be aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses. Remember, it's not a competition - everyone needs to work together and play their part. Be ready to support each other and give open and constructive feedback.
- Make use of the rooms on campus which you can book to practise your presentation.
- Prepare thoroughly (don’t rely on ‘winging it’!), but also don't overprepare – you want the presentation to flow and not be too rigid.
- Don't write a script and memorise it off by heart - it's important to sound natural.
- Don't overload PowerPoint slides with information – they can be very distracting.
- Think about what questions you'll be asked at the end and prepare some answers to these.
- Sound confident, even if you don’t feel it!
You can watch the students’ video interview in the Presentation Skills short course.
"Presentation skills are really important, especially if you're going for a placement in the business industry. Your presentation skills will be assessed in assessment centres. When I did my assessment centre with Samsung, they told me to do a presentation on the spot in about half an hour. So, if you manage to develop your presentation skills really well just with coursework, you would do really well for your interviews, for placements, and even for your graduate year and in the future."
– Ryan Liew, BSc (Hons) Management with Marketing.
Step by step guide to giving successful presentations
Our interactive Presentation Skills short course takes you through how to deliver a polished and persuasive presentation, whether face-to-face, online or in a group. It covers the following:
- The three stages of giving a presentation: Preparation, Delivery, Reflection (don’t forget the last one!).
- What makes an effective presentation and the features of a confident presenter.
- How to structure your presentation and what sections to include, from ‘opener’ to ‘closer’.
- How to organise presentation materials and notecards.
- Considerations and tips when giving a group or online presentation.
- How to deal with questions.
The course includes downloadable infographics and useful additional resources are provided at the end.
- Check out this useful checklist to help you prepare your presentation on the Academic Skills blog.
- Chapter 11 of the Academic Skills Handbook, available in the Library, looks at Giving Effective Presentations in more detail and includes lots of tasks for you to check your understanding, do’s and don’ts and top tips, for example on dealing with nerves.
- Watch out for Presentation Skills courses run by the Skills Centre.
We’d love to hear about your experience of giving presentations and your own tips – please post a comment below.