Hello again, Badgers!
It’s about the time for final projects this semester, so I thought I’d give you guys some tips on how to survive the most common types of final projects. Today, it’s presentations. I’ve got another post coming up, “How to Survive Group Work” going up on Wednesday, February 26, so stay tuned for that!
Presentations are a common type of final project so chances are you’re going to have to do at least a few of them in your time here at Brock. Whether you’re a fan of them or not,
It’s almost inevitable, so here are some tips on how to make the best out of your final presentations!
1. No papers in Your Hands, unless ABSOLUTELY necessary!
Unless you’re making a speech, you don’t need to be holding anything up there. Everything on the slides should be enough information for you to work with. If you absolutely need a piece of paper with you, it could be because you don’t know the material off hand or you plan on reading right off the sheet the whole time. Having the paper up there can be bad for you, too. Getting mixed up or losing your place on the sheet is even more nerve-wracking in front of an entire class. That awkward silence when you try to find where you left off, the shuffling and distracting waving around of the paper. Plus, the stress of having to follow a written script in your hand can be more tedious than just moving through the presentation with your own knowledge, off the top of your head.
2. Bullet points are not paragraphs with a little dot in front of them.
You’ve all seen it before. The powerpoint slide that is almost entirely a block of text that you have to stare at for several minutes while the presenters make their way through all that information. No one wants to stare at a wall of text while you feed them information. Make sure your slides contain only the key points. Any other interesting or extra details can be added in by you at that slide. It catches the attention of the audience better if you have something to say that’s not already on there, an interesting anecdote or detail you found in the research. But most importantly, don’t put everything you’re going to say up there.
3. Make Eye Contact
This one might be hard if you especially hate presentations. Make eye contact with your audience, talk to them, not the ceiling or the floor or the paper in your hands (which hopefully won’t be there!). At the very least, try to make eye contact with your prof or TA since they’re the ones marking your presentation. Address who you’re talking to, because when a presenter doesn’t seem to be talking to you (or doesn’t seem like they want to be), then you lose your attention pretty quickly.
4. Know Your Material!
Okay, I’m not asking you to become the world’s leading professional on this topic, but know it well. Be familiar with the mechanics, some of the details, and definitely know everything that’s required of you, or specifically outlined by your professor. If you hate the question period after presentations, you’re not alone. It’s arguably the hardest part of presentations, when the TA’s and professor gets to poke holes in your knowledge, so make sure you know your topic well. It’s understandable if you don’t know the answers to more complex, or slightly off topic questions, but it’s not going to look good if you aren’t familiar with huge chunks of your own presentation. And anyway, if you know the basics, you can at least extrapolate or approximate an answer to any tough TA questions, which is much better than saying “I don’t know”.
5. Go in with the Right Attitude
If you don’t want to be there, everyone’s going to see that and no one else will want to be there, either. Even if you hate presenting, act like you’re at least interested and awake (make sure you get lots of sleep the night before!). If you expect it to go badly, you’re setting yourself up for a tough presentation. If you’re expecting to slip up, you’re probably going to make it happen. Remind yourself it won’t be so bad. Hopefully you’re at least a little bit interested in your presentation topic, so don’t stand up there and act like this is the worst experience of your life (it probably isn’t). You don’t even have to be excited the entire time, save your enthusiasm for the best, most interesting parts of the presentation when you want to draw everyone’s attention to whatever you’re talking about.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Pause (Every Once in a While)
Pauses don’t have to be awkward, and are pretty important if you have to take a breath or grab a sip of water. Maybe you just want to get it over with and prefer to speed through everything at a brisk pace, but don’t forget to stop to breathe, pause after emphasizing an important point, and most importantly, to avoid the “umm, uhhh” of trying to collect your thoughts. If you don’t pause once in a while, you’ll run through everything much faster than expected and no one will know what just happened.
- Include an outline slide. It helps introduce your topic and makes your presentation much clearer when you start off by explaining what you’re going to tell everyone.
- Include interactive or extra materials. Some classes require more input from the classroom and some topics lend themselves better to more interactive components like asking the class questions, or group activities. Always try to include something like this if it’s possible or reasonable to do so.
- Practice, but not to the point of being scripted. Reliance on a script can cause the presentation to seem monotonous or rehearsed. Allow some flexibility for when you’re actually in front of the class, but make sure you have a good outline in your head about how you want it to go.
I hope these tips come in handy when it’s time to finally present all your final projects. Good luck! I’ll see you next time! My next post, “How to Survive Group Work” will be up on Wednesday, February 26.