Whilst at university you may be expected to give an oral or poster presentation. It can sometimes seem like a daunting or nerve wracking task, but by following a few guidelines, it can be a very rewarding experience. Through developing your presentation skills you also develop your levels of confidence, preparation and communication skills which are all valuable life long skill

Consider the audience

Always consider what your audience is wanting to know and how you can make it interesting to them. You might like to consider the following questions:

Who are the members of the audience and what do they do? (e.g. assessors, peers, employers)

  • What is the benefit to the audience of listening to your presentation?
  • What do they already know about the subject?
  • What is the relationship between yourself and the audience?
  • What interests your audience?
  • How will what you are going to say affect them? Will you shock or upset them?


Find out what the goal of giving the presentation is; what technology will be available; who and how large is the audience, and how long you have to speak for

Prepare prompt cards for you to use as reminders and help you talk more naturally instead of reading from a script

Practice giving the presentation to friends under timed conditions and be open to their feedback!

Visual aids – consider whether you will be using visual aids and if so, when you are going to give them out to your audience.

Familiarise yourself with the room you will be presenting in and arrive early to get the technology set up

Structure and timing

Title – make sure it’s clear and relevant

Introduction – Introduce yourself; state the topic, aims or purpose of the presentation and provide an outline of the discussion

Main body – Support your views with reasons and evidence; keep it clear, concise and direct. Do not put too much words per slide, just the key points. Then talk about each point when addressing the audience, they actually listen to you by doing that

Conclusion – Restate the main points, develop some concusions and review the implications, then bring it to a clear end

Questions – Leave enough time at the end of your session for the audience to ask you questions


Top tips on delivering a presentation

  • Smile!
  • Make eye contact with your audience
  • Talk more slowly than normal and pause for breath between points
  • Vary the tone of your voice to keep it interesting
  • Use your body language to emphasise points and appear confident
  • Use prompt cards to help you talk more naturally
  • Try and interact with your audience if appropriate to show you value their opinion
  • Try not to use dark backgrounds or light colours like yellow for the writing. Makes it difficult for the audience to see or focus.


How did your presentation go? It’s important to evaluate your presentation in order to build your confidence and continually improve each time. Consider some these points:

  • What went well?
  • Did your audience seem interested?
  • Were there any aspects you feel that you didn’t communicate very well?
  • Did you feel nervous at any particular points and if so, why?
  • What did your assessor or peers say in their feedback?
  • What three improvements could you take to your next presentation?

Posters are one of the most effective ways to visually present results and information, and are widely used in many disciplines to display work at conferences and to the general public.

It is unlikely that you will be specifically asked to make a poster until your dissertaion but tutors ask you to put together poster displays to demonstrate your skills of visual communication and to assess your ability to get ideas across clearly and concisely.

Presenting a poster

When presenting a poster, particularly bear in mind the following:

  • Make sure the key points are large enough for the audience to be able to read or see them
  • Use your poster to talk around the text, don’t simply read the poster panels
  • Summarise key arguments/results for the audience
  • Point to graphs and diagrams when talking about them to assist the audience
  • If working in a group, plan before hand who is saying what
  • Think through your message before preparing it. Read the above section on giving oral presentations

Tips on designing a poster

Book a study skills tutorial on presentations and group work

Downloadable Resources