Student Skill

Practical hints for giving a presentation

General points

  • Timekeeping is vital and is the responsibility of the presenters.
  • Rehearse your seminar; it is very easy to misjudge timing unless you have had a full scale rehearsal.
  • Think about the most appropriate format for your presentation.For example: a debate, a conversation, a shared ‘lecture’.

Maintaining interest

  • Avoid simply reading out an essay. You may well rely on a script but remember one task is to maintain the interest of the audience. Your own experience will tell you that listening to someone reading for eight minutes is not very exciting.
  • Vary the tone of your voice.
  • Avoid speaking too quickly.
  • Maintain eye contact with people in all parts of the room.
  • Smile.
  • Be mobile if not too nervous; if stationary do not slouch or lean on the wall or table.
  • Avoid doing things which distract the audience, e.g. chewing gum.

Use of audio-visual aids

  • Visual aids must be clear to all of the room. Check that the font size of any OHP is visible to all parts of the room. If using Word a font size of 16 pt or above is recommended.
  • OHPs are best used to display a few headings rather than the whole text of what you are going to say. Think of them as key points which you can use as prompts. Do not simply read the material off the OHP: supplement or explain what is written.
  • Sketches, cartoons, maps, diagrams are all good uses of the OHP; they also tend to hold interest better than text.
  • OHPs are best written in dark or black ink; only show the relevant section, gradually uncover as talk progresses; switch off projector when not in use.
  • Give plenty of notice if projector or cassette player etc. is required.


It is inevitable that you will be nervous but remember that everyone will be involved. Try to approach presentations as a team. You will obviously support your partner but also support others whilst they are giving their presentations: listen and signal that you are listening; do some preparatory reading so that you know what is going on and can join in the discussion.

Ten ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ for a student preparing a presentation

(compiled using comments made by current first year Geography undergraduates at Liverpool Hope)


  • Lots of background research. Even if the information is not used in the presentation, it is useful to have as much knowledge as possible for the discussion and audience questions.
  • Be organised - prepare in plenty of time.
  • Structure your presentation.
  • Focus on the question set.
  • Obtain material from a wide range of sources.
  • Practice your presentation. This helps take away some of the embarrassment when it is for real, and enables you to check the timing.
  • Use note cards.
  • Speak clearly.
  • Have eye contact with your audience.
  • Use clear OHPs (word processed, large font size, use of bullet points etc.).


  • Leave research and preparation until the last minute.
  • Rely on one source of data.
  • Make it up.
  • Just hope that it will come together on the day without preparation and practice.
  • Have no notes to rely on if you get stuck.
  • Worry too much - its not as bad as it seems.
  • Mumble.
  • Read from a script.
  • Rush the presentation by speaking too fast.
  • Go over the time allotted for the presentation.