5 Presentation DON’Ts and DOs

Presentations usually give a lot of leeway with regards to what you are allowed to do. However, some bad habits can negatively affect your grade. When you practise your presentation, avoid the following like a rash:

1. DON’T read off paper, DO use notes
Reading off paper is a bad idea. The paper can muffle your voice or rustle if you are nervous. Also, if you look up and return to the page, you will have to find where you left off. Even worse, some people end up reading to themselves, leaving their audience struggling to hear.

No one expects you to learn the speech off by heart, but you need to be VERY familiar with it. Know what each part of your speech consists of, and how every section flows into the next. You should be able to look at a specific word or sentence from your speech, and talk in detail about it.

To build up to this, condense the speech you have written. By this I mean highlight the key words, phrases and points in every paragraph. When you have done this, practise using those notes when you recite your speech again. Feel free to look at back at your original speech if you forget something important, but try as hard as you can to remember. Eventually you should do the entire speech using just your notes.

2. DON’T practise once or twice, DO recite on a regular basis
Practise makes near perfect. Now that you won’t be reading off paper, you need even more practise doing your speech. Practise at least once everyday leading up to Presentation Day. Read over your notes, learn specific parts off by heart if you can, and organise who is saying what and when, if it is a group presentation.

3. DON’T rush your speech, DO take your time

If you speak too quickly, no one but you will understand whatever you say, which would be a real shame after all the time you spent preparing. Pause briefly between different points and longer between different speakers. This gives people enough time to process what you have already said and make notes if they need to. It also gives you time to calm your nerves if they’re getting the better of you.

4. DON’T let one person do everything, DO share the speech and workload
This only applies to those doing a group presentation. At degree level, we suddenly had to do group presentations, and in most of them we had to share a grade. The final grade consisted of our personal grade combined with a group one. This shows how important it is to work as a team. Preparing yourself is good, but if you leave others stranded, they could pull your grade down too. Work together as one.

5. DON’T disrespect other speakers, DO listen to everyone else
How would you like it if someone ignored your speech? After all those weeks preparing for that moment, this person comes along and disrespects you by ignoring what you have to say. Feel good? Of course not, so don’t make someone else feel that way. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you are rude during their speech, don’t be surprised if they return the favour.

These tips got me top grades in presentations all the time. Read over them the morning of the presentation – take them with you if you like – and then enter the  exam room with your head held high. You can do it!