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Presentation Skills

Giving great presentations

Oral presentations are difficult. Not only do they involve effective verbal communication but they involve effective visual communication.

Watch the videos below. Which presentation is better and why?


Verbal communication

Being able to express yourself well is an important part of presenting. There are a number of things you can do to improve your verbal communication:

  1. Practice
    Finish writing your presentation at least a day before it is due so you can practice presenting it
  2. Speak naturally
    Use your normal speaking voice, don't overcomplicate your explanations and use simple language
  3. Be aware of distracting mannerisms you may have
    Practice in front of a mirror, film yourself, or ask a friend to watch you to make sure you don't have any gestures or expressions that might detract from your presentation
  4. Use notes effectively.
    Don't read off a script, use notes instead.

Ways to create effective presentation notes

  1. Only include dot-points
    After writing your presentation create a copy of it that you can then pare back to the key points; use this version when you're presenting.
  2. Memorise as much about what you want to say as possible
    Try to memorise your introduction, main points and conclusion
  3. Use prompt cards
    Prompt cards have a few notes about your key points on them; they are designed to jog your memory

Visual communication

Effective presentations are visually engaging both in terms of the Powerpoint slides or other visual aids used and the way the presenter engages with the audience. 

How to create great visual aids

  1. Keep the writing to a minimum
    Only include your key points on your slides; be succinct
  2. Use images
    Use pictures, graphs or other visual elements that are relevant to what you are talking about, but make sure you get these from Creative Commons sources so you don't breach Copyright laws! 
  3. Have a consistent design
    Use the same font and colour scheme on each slide.

Ways to engage your audience

Some simple things you can do in your presentation to make it more engaging for the audience are:

  • Pace your speaking so the audience is able to follow
  • Smile
  • Pause when you need to
  • Make appropriate gestures, such as pointing to your visual aids.

Answering questions

Your audience may also have questions about the points you raise in your presentation. Don't let questions fluster you:

  • Repeat the question in your own words to make sure you understand it
  • Ask the questioner to clarify anything you don't understand
  • Don't be afraid to pause before answering the question
  • Answer the question as well as you can.

QUT Resources

QUT Students Learning and Assessment has plenty of resources to help you create an effective presentation.

Library Search
The Library also has a range of books on presenting. Browse these related subject headings to find out more:
Oral communication
Persuasion (rhetoric)
Public speaking

TED talks

TED is a nonproft organisation devoted to spreading ideas. TED host events where speakers are invited to present an idea in 18 minutes or less. TED talks are great examples of how to give powerful presentations. 

This article in the Harvard Business Review by TED curator Chris Anderson gives you some helpful hints on how to give a great presentation. Or watch Chris' talk on TED's Secret to Great Public Speaking below.

Anderson, C. (Presenter). (2016). Chris Anderson: TED's secret to great public speaking [YouTube video].  

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