University learning requires plenty of independence and self-direction. As a student, whether in an undergraduate or postgraduate course, you are expected to have discipline in managing your workload and meeting your deadlines.

Many resources are provided for you to explore all types of learning, and in-depth research is part of the parcel of your academic needs. Alongside a healthy research habit, students are exposed to many public speaking opportunities in class or outside the lecture halls. Students are also required to have good presentation skills. Here’s a short guide we’ve put together to sharpen those skills.


This advice often repeat itself like a broken record, ‘Preparation is one of the most important parts of delivering an effective presentation and it can also help to control the nerves – you can never over-prepare!’ So be sure to do your homework.

Firstly, determine your audience and the purpose of your presentation. Your audience could be your peers, lecturers or perhaps professionals from the industry itself. Knowing their background, interest and motivation for attending your presentation will help you better.

Prepping your slides or videos way ahead of the presentation date can be one of the best advice to take. Find out how long your presentation is, so you can decide how best to craft engaging content for your audience. Often these presentations are graded, so give it your best effort.  If group work is involved, estimate how much time you will need with your peers to produce your slides or visual aids.

When you’re tasked to deliver a presentation, ensure you are well-read on the topic. Seek support from your lecturers or your study group if you need to expand on a point. If you are unfamiliar with your subject, it may make you feel uncomfortable – which could make you nervous. Learning as much about the subject will help boost your confidence in delivery. It also improves flow and helps with questioning.

Putting your material together

So now you’ve decided on a topic and angle of argument, you are ready to put together your slides or design your visual aids.  As a starter, you need to define the aims, topic and appropriate depth and scope of the information you will be presenting.

Collate all the information and ideas and organise them in a logical sequence. Audiences enjoy listening to stories so consider a storytelling format to keep your crowd engaged. It must be clear and logical, and could also have anecdotes or humour, depending on the topic.

Get your structure right.  Usually, oral presentations have three main points comprising of:

  • The introduction: (what you intend to say)
  • The body (the presentation itself)
  • Conclusions (what you have said)

If you’re dealing with scientific or technical jargon, ensure that your presentation includes definitions, any underlying assumptions, historical background or any other introductory material. Depending on your audience, you may need to tweak your introduction. If it is an expert crowd, you could keep it brief or be specific with the concepts that are familiar to them.  Whereas if you are dealing with the layman, having simple explanations works best.

The style and font size are up to what’s required for the presentation, at times you may need to adhere to a font size or colour theme but quite often students are given a free rein to design an eye-catching presentation.

Knowing how much time you have is crucial to your presentation. No one enjoys a long and rambly session, on the other hand, a short presentation may not give you the time to explain your points and convince your audience of your arguments.

Practice and showtime

If it is your first time presenting to a crowd, having notes is useful. Some presenters use note cards to help prompt your flow of arguments. Be sure to not solely rely on the notes or read from the slides on the screen. Ask yourself, do you need an electric pointer or stylus to help you move through your slides. Get these items ready.

To get over nerves and get used to speaking in front of a crowd, practice is important. Rehearsing as much as you can, sometimes in front of a mirror or recording yourself can help you correct any mistakes.

It may help to do a ‘dry-run’ with a friend or colleague who can then give you honest and constructive feedback. Anticipate any questions that could be asked and prepare possible responses. Prepare for the questions that you may not be able answer and know how you will respond to them.

When it’s time to present, be sure to stay calm and smile at the audience to help you relax. Simple tips like getting your slides ready early, checking equipment to ensure any aids like microphones or videos are working properly before the show.

At the presentation, stand tall and to the left or right of the projected screen. It’s obvious, but don’t block the screen! Face the audience as you speak and be mindful to not to turn your body away from them. Try to maintain eye contact with the audience, by scanning the room or even looking at your lecturer for focus.

Deep breaths are helpful if you’re feeling nervous. Plus the audience have probably been in your shoes before so they’ll be kind to understand if you’re presenting for the first time. So don’t worry!

Don’t rush through your slides or visual aids, speak calmly while varying your volume or intonation where needed. This is why rehearsals are crucial! Summarise when the time is nearly over, reinforce your points to rensure your audience understands the information.

If there are questions, try to answer questions simply and directly. Virtually no one has all the answers all the time and if you don’t have the answer, say so. You can, however, offer a helpful solution such as, ‘I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that topic, I’ll find out and get back to you’.