How to Hone Your Presentation Skills

Knowing how to give a good presentation and present your ideas effectively is crucial to your success as a graduate student. You should take advantage of any opportunity to present your work because presenting your work (a) helps you cohere your ideas, (b) helps you develop and improve the methods you use to communicate your ideas, (c) allows you to receive feedback about your ideas, and (d) allows you to network with people who are interested in your ideas. When you have an opportunity to present your ideas, you can use the following tips to hone your presentation skills.

Know your audience and your communication goals.

When giving a research presentation, you are not presenting your ideas to show off to your audience; you are presenting your ideas to advertise your work, to enlighten your audience about a particular topic, and to further academic discussion about that topic. To do this effectively, you must tailor your presentation to your audience’s lowest level of knowledge about your topic. After considering your audience’s level of knowledge about your topic, you must determine the most essential piece of information that your audience needs to glean from your presentation, and you should organize your presentation around that information. To give a good presentation you should use specific examples to emphasize the underlying, essential information that you want your audience to remember from your presentation.

Engage your audience.

You have approximately 2 minutes to engage your audience in your presentation before your audience starts to lose interest. You should cut to the chase about your topic and eliminate any fluff that you might be tempted to use as filler to bulk up your presentation.

Practice your presentation.

You should practice and polish your presentation the night before the main event so that your presentation is fresh in your mind. If there is a time limit for your presentation, you should practice your presentation so that you stay within your time limit; going over time limits can make audiences lose interest and forget what they have already heard. Additionally, you should attend other presentations and take note both of what the presenters did that was good and of what the presenters did that you would do differently to improve your own presentation skills.

Prepare for questions.

Questions about your presentation are a good thing; questions indicate that your audience was paying attention during your presentation and was engaged in your topic. Make sure that you have backup information ready for the question-and-answer portion of your presentation. If you notice that you are getting short on time during your presentation, truncate the material that you are presenting to save time for questions and answers because you should take advantage of any opportunity to interact with your audience about your topic.

Present your topic enthusiastically.

The more enthusiastic you are during your presentation, the more your audience will take interest in and will be engaged with your topic. If you are presenting orally, you should speak loudly and clearly; you should try to project your voice to the back of the room so that everyone can hear you. Record your presentation so that you can listen to it later; this will help you hear if you need to speak more loudly, clearly, or enthusiastically.

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