Preparing an Effective Presentation

Research shows that communication skills, including the ability to deliver an effective oral presentation, are among the most important assets you, as a college student, can have in seeking employment or promotional opportunities. While the thought of delivering an oral presentation before an audience of your peers may make you uncomfortable, following a few simple tips can significantly increase your effectiveness in delivering your message.

Use an attention-getting introduction

First impressions are lasting impressions, so get the audience's attention -- in a positive way -- in the first sixty seconds. Your introduction should get the interest and attention of the audience, establish your credibility, present your topic, and preview the body of your presentation. In addition to accomplishing these objectives, a strong introduction can also give you a solid boost of self-confidence once your presentation begins.

Elements of a strong introduction

  • Use a relevant quote, story, question or research to get the audience's attention
  • State your topic, relate it to your audience, and preview points/ideas to be presented
  • Practice your introduction so you can deliver it with confidence, sincerity and conviction
  • Create a presentation body that makes sense

    The main points are the central ideas in your presentation. In most class presentations, there is rarely enough time to develop more than five points and most presentations will include only two or three. The objective is to make a few clear points that your audience will remember and bolster them with strong evidence that can convince your audience to support your point of view.

    Elements of a strong body

  • Establish the main points to form the structure of your presentation
  • Decide the most effective order such as chronological, causal, or problem-solution
  • Support your ideas & opinions with relevant examples, statistics, or expert testimony
  • Support your conclusions with logic and fact
  • Maintain credibility by presenting correct, concise, and complete information
  • Use connectives such as transitions and signposts to facilitate audience understanding
  • Manage your time effectively
  • Present a strong conclusion

    The conclusion signals that you, as the speaker, are about to complete the presentation and it gives you one last opportunity to strengthen the audience's commitment to your message. Final impressions linger in listeners' minds, so while the conclusion may be less than 10% of your presentation, prepare it with the same diligence as you prepare your introduction.

    Elements of a strong conclusion

  • Signal the end of your presentation and reinforce your central idea with a clear summary
  • Use a quotation, dramatic statement, call to action, or refer to your introduction to deliver a memorable conclusion
  • Practice your conclusion so you can deliver it with confidence and strength
  • Practice your delivery

    Presentation delivery is an art, not a science, and the key to good delivery is that it does not call attention to itself. Audiences respond positively to speakers who balance an appropriate degree of formality with a conversational tone. Research suggests that 90% of the success of your presentation is determined before you stand up to speak, so take the time to plan and practice.

    Elements of strong delivery

  • Deliver your message using an audible voice with effective variations in pitch, rate, volume, pace, & inflection
  • Use clear, concise, accurate, appropriate & vivid language
  • Establish eye contact with entire audience; be sure eyes convey confidence & sincerity
  • Use natural and spontaneous gestures to reinforce ideas
  • Present a professional appearance, including dress and grooming
  • Use effective visual support

    Effective visual aids can clarify your ideas, increase the interest level of the audience, and increase your credibility as a speaker. Visuals can also increase the retention rate of your audience because of the long-lasting effect of visual images.

    Elements of strong visual support

  • Support your message with graphs, drawings, charts, or computer-generated graphics that clarify your points effectively
  • Explain your visual aids clearly and concisely while you maintain effective eye contact
  • Enhance the professional image of your visuals by using consistent typeface, color scheme, & graphical style