The skill of presenting is a useful skill for more than just presentation assignments. You will use your presentation skills in job interviews, in extra-curricular opportunities and in your career. Therefore, every presentation at university is an opportunity to practice, get feedback and improve.
In the podcast found in the resources section I interview Head of the Student and Graduate Experience Team and University of Derby Graduate Russell Lewis, to discuss his advice for presenting and for developing presentation skills. We also advise on how you can tailor a presentation to the audience, prepare for a presentation, overcome nerves and perform within the presentation itself.
Russell advised on the importance of preparing your presentation to give you control in the presentation itself. Preparing effectively gives you control over the content, control over the timings and control over how you deliver that content. There are two main phases for preparation, preparing the content (researching, making slides (if required), planning what to say) and then preparing for the performance (practicing, working out timings, reflecting on the presentation and preparing for questions). To deliver an effective presentation, spend a good amount of time on both of these phases.
Russell highlighted a technique that he uses to control his nerves called the 7-11 breathing technique. Essentially this technique calms your nerves through breathing in through your nose for 7 seconds and out with your mouth for 11 seconds. If you repeat this for a few minutes it usually reduces your heart rate and allows you to focus. Having tried this myself since recording the podcast, I find the technique really useful. Other ways of reducing nerves include, making sure that you have everything that you need, distracting yourself by doing something you enjoy before the presentation and removing things away from yourself that you would fiddle with.
When presenting it is recommended that where possible you avoid reading from a script. Scripting often removes your natural emphasis and pauses and reduces the flexibility of your presentation. Avoiding using a script helps your body language, how you cope with nerves and how you speak. However not using a script does not mean that you haven’t thought through what you want to say, but instead leaves the detail to be more freeform and adaptable. Russell stated that whilst he does not use a script when presenting, he still practices his presentation a number of times in the week before to get his timings right and to reflect on and improve the quality of the presentation and his delivery. Instead of using a script, consider what points you would like to make in a bullet point form and use your control to decide which order to use them in when presenting. If you do miss out a point, no one except for you will know and you can always choose to add it in later on.
For more information about the skill of presenting, see our Presentations Guide.