A presentation is less a form of academic writing and more a form of speech.
Oral presentations follow a common structure – regardless of your discipline area. In many ways presentations tell a story.
— Dr Anneke Veenstra
The main purpose of giving a presentation at university is to demonstrate how you can communicate your research in an engaging and interesting way. Being able to plan and present a professional presentation is a valuable skill to have in both your academic and professional life.
Most oral presentations at university will occur in seminars, so your audience will be your tutors and classmates. No matter who your audience is though, your aim in a presentation is to attract and hold their attention. This often requires a more natural and less formal delivery – and for this reason reading from a script will not produce an engaging presentation!
In addition to the watching the three videos on preparing, designing and delivering an oral presentation, make sure that you download Presentation language tips and My presentation checklist to get you started.
Feeling nervous about giving a presentation? You wouldn't be the first! ‘Study with Jess’ has useful tips on dealing with anxiety when delivering an oral presentation.
Always analyse the assignment criteria so you are clear on the purpose of your presentation.
In this video, Dr Anneke Veenstra, Senior Lecturer School of Life and Environmental Sciences, discusses the importance of:
- understanding the task criteria
- considering your audience
- researching your topic
- structuring your presentation.
Include as little as possible on each slide.
Dr Anneke Veenstra on the importance of:
- tailoring your presentation to suit your audience
- designing your slides
- design elements – slide background, text and transitions.
For copyright free images search the Deakin University Library Image resource collection.
Dr Anneke Veenstra discusses the importance of:
- rehearsing your presentation
- body language
- receiving questions from the audience.
You might also like to review this Presentation Fundamentals course via Lynda.com – log in with your Deakin email and password to access this resource.
Language tips for oral presentations
Although a spoken presentation is often less formal than a written text, it still needs to be cohesive and well organised. The audience still needs to know when you are introducing a new topic or example, where you are drawing on evidence, and when you are summarising your main points.
Providing an outline of the presentation in your introduction will help orientate your audience, but you can also use signposting phrases throughout your presentation. Signposting phrases include: “Firstly”, Secondly”, “Finally”, “Which brings me to my next point…”, “Another example of this is…”.
You also need to be very clear when you are drawing on other sources. If you paraphrase somebody else, you might want to mention their name, for example, "In 2005, Bourke came to a different conclusion that..."
When planning your next presentation, consider the kinds of phrases that you would typically use at each stage of the presentation. Practise using these phrases before you begin rehearsing your presentation (yes, you should always rehearse your presentation!).
Download the Presentation Language tips (PDF) from this page.
You can further develop your presentation skills by watching a variety of other presentations (lectures, online videos) and taking note of the speaker's:
- language, for example the signpost phrases, and other techniques for engaging the audience
- body language and eye contact
- vocal technique and how certain phrases are emphasised or repeated
- structure of the presentation.
Watch these presentations for tips, techniques, and for inspiration: