Presentations. Article by Dr Martin Greenhow
6.0 THINK COMMUNICATION. Your objective is to communicate, rather than to impress, your audience, so pitch it at a suitable level. Seeking common ground with the audience at the start of the talk will establish a good rapport; they will not mind being reminded of things they already know before going into new material.
6.1 MEET THE SPECIFICATION. If you are asked to give a presentation on a topic in science, a talk about astrology or aromatheraphy will not do!
6.2 As with written work, delimit your talk carefully and start preparation for it early so that you can improve the logic of your presentation by redrafting your first efforts. The templates in PowerPoint provide a good starting point for first drafts. Define all technical terms (do not assume your audience will know what emf is, or what amino acids are), but do not get bogged down in detail. Be ruthless and cut out all unnecessary material.
6.3 Know what you are talking about! Bluffing will not work and will insult and alienate your audience.
6.4 Prepare contingency plans; any group member should be able to give the talk, "live" presentations on PCs should have OHP backup, talks should not entirely depend on working demos or experiments. Check your equipment in good time and take extension leads for power, internet connection etc. Have an alternative plan for when things donít work or take longer than expected.
6.5 Speak loudly, clearly and not too fast. Sound interested in what you are saying (if you aren't, why should you expect your audience to be?). Don't sound laid back or cool. Avoid jokes unless they are really good (and clean!).
6.6 Be assertive! Maintain eye contact with your audience (N.B. this is impossible if you read a prepared text). Demand their attention by varying your voice to stress the main points and use your hands. Do not apologise, giggle, scratch, sniff, try to hide behind the OHP etc. Stand still somewhere where all your audience can see you and the OHP projection, for example to the side of the screen and back from the OHP. Address the audience, not the OHP nor the screen.
6.7 If you are nervous, hold a pencil - it gives you something to do with your hands and de-stresses you!
6.8 NEVER read your presentation from a prepared text - it is extremely boring for your audience. You need to do something extra in an aural presentation to make it worth the extra time it takes, since even slow readers can read much faster than you will be able to speak. Use OHPs with a few key phrases and diagrams to provide you with visual clue on what to say next. (Additional material not on the OHP can be written briefly on cue cards to remind you of the next point.) It is quite possible for your audience to read material from the OHP and listen to you at the same time, so you should expand and explain your OHP content rather that simply repeat it.
6.9 Use colour logically to link similar ideas, logical connections or classes of items together. Avoid yellow and orange, which cannot be seen.
6.10 Do not put more than a few lines on each OHP. NEVER Xerox pages of type-written material with a font size of less than about 30 ppi - it cannot be read. Remember the chance of all your audience having good eyesight is slim!
6.11 You may be surprised at how little you can say in the time allowed, so start immediately. Typically you will want 3 minutes per transparency. Practice your talk (actually saying all the words) with a friend first. Try out the talk again after any substantial changes. You need to be ruthless in what you cut out, but you should put important cut material on extra OHPs which you can use if you have enough time, or in the question time. Equally, know which transparencies to leave out if you have less time than you think, but be sure to include an adequate introduction and the conclusions.
6.12 Put your title, name, department and year on your first overhead. For talks outside Brunel, you should also include "Brunel University" and your email address.
6.13 State the topic or problem you are going to talk about clearly. State what applications it has and why it is interesting.
6.14 Give a map or plan of your talk so the audience does not get lost. Indicate your priorities.
6.15 Present the main points or results in each section. Define any technical words you use but do not go into details which are better read by the audience, such as mathematical proofs, experimental procedures etc. (unless these are what your talk is about!). If you need your audience to have the structure and details after the talk, prepare a handout.
6.16 Use diagrams and pictures as much as possible - they convey more information in a short time.
6.17 Give your conclusions together on the same OHP transparency if possible. Finish with a list of references or a bibliography, which can be displayed during the question time so that your audience can copy down details if they want them.
6.18 Give the audience the opportunity to discuss the points you have raised by asking if anyone has questions. It is usually necessary to repeat any question so that all the audience hears it clearly and so that you can confirm it - this also gives you time to think about your answer. Have a few spare OHP transparencies and OHP pens handy to sketch/write your answers. If nobody has a question, you could amplify one or two of the main points in your talk or cover omitted items. You could ask the audience about things you don't know yourself.
© Copyright for this article belongs to Dr Martin Greenhow
This document was extracted from 'Study Skills Online' and re-printed with the kind permission of Dr Martin Greenhow. The original source of the article (and 11 other sections on study skills) is located here: http://people.brunel.ac.uk/~mastmmg/ssguide/sshome.htm