How to Give a Fabulous Academic Presentation: Five Tips to Follow
In this post, I will discuss a few simple techniques that can make your presentation stand out. It does take time to make a good presentation. However, it is well worth the investment.
Tip #1: Use PowerPoint JudiciouslyThese days, most good presentations make some use of visuals. The extent to which you should use visuals will vary a lot depending on your field. Nevertheless, there are a few basic things you should know if you will be using PowerPoint or another method of showing visuals.
- Never use less than 24 point font. If you use smaller font, people will not be able to see your information and you will have too much information on the slide.
- Use bullet points. PowerPoint slides do not need full sentences, and should never have a paragraph full of information.
- Use images effectively. You should have as little text as possible on the slide. One way to accomplish this is to have images on each slide, accompanied by a small amount of text.
- Never put your presentation on the slides and read from the slides.
- Do not have too many slides. Definitely do not have more than one slide per minute of presentation.
Tip #2: There is a formula to academic presentations. Use it.
Once you have become an expert at giving fabulous presentations, you can deviate from the formula. However, if you are a newbie, you need to follow the formula. Again, this will vary by the field. However, I will give an example from my field – sociology – to give you an idea as to what the format should look like.
- Theoretical Framework/Research Question
- Methodology/Case Selection
- Background/Literature Review
- Discussion of Data/Results
Tip #3: The audience wants to hear about your research. Tell them.One of the most common mistakes I see in people giving presentations is that they present only information I already know. This usually happens when they spend nearly all of the presentation going over the existing literature and giving background information on their particular case. You need only to discuss the literature with which you are directly engaging and contributing. Your background information should only include what is absolutely necessary. If you are giving a 15-minute presentation, by the 6th minute, you need to be discussing your data or case study.
Tip #4: Practice. Practice. Practice.You need to practice your presentation in full before you deliver it. You might feel silly delivering your presentation to your cat or your toddler, but you need to do it and do it again. You need to practice to ensure that your presentation fits within the time parameters. Practicing also makes it flow better. You can’t practice too many times.
Tip #5: Keep To Your Time LimitIf you have ten minutes to present, prepare ten minutes of material. No more. Even if you only have seven minutes, you need to finish within the allotted time. If you will be reading, a general rule of thumb is two minutes per typed, double-spaced page. For a fifteen minute talk, you should have no more than 7 double-spaced pages of material.
For many students, the task of writing a lengthy dissertation is so big that they forget about the need for Dissertation Presentation! Amidst all the hard work of researching and writing, students in some courses still need to prepare for a high-quality presentation that will help them earn top marks. This article will help you prepare and give you some essential tips for success.
The Purpose of Dissertation Presentation
There are two main types of Dissertation Presentation that are normally encountered in UK universities:
Students will often be asked to present their dissertation work at a mid-point in their research. These presentations are usually made to a panel comprised of various faculty members from your department. In addition, they are sometimes structured as a postgraduate seminar, in which fellow students also attend. Both faculty and students can pose questions. The purpose of these Mid-Research Dissertation Presentation is to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate their progress and identify any weak areas that need to be addressed.
Students are also sometimes required to make a Dissertation Presentation as part of their overall assessment. This is a much more formal presentation than the Mid-Research one, and it is usually open only to the student, examiners and the research supervisor. At an Assessment Dissertation Presentation, the student is required to present a summary of their research and results. They will then be asked questions by the examiners in a somewhat lengthy oral examination. The purpose of this Dissertation Presentation is to assess the student’s original research project and test its scholarly validity.
Differences in Undergraduate and Masters Presentations
Dissertation Presentations may be required at both Undergraduate (Bachelors) and Postgraduate (Masters) levels. The key difference between these levels is the length and degree of originality expected. Postgraduate Dissertation Presentations will normally be longer than Undergraduate Presentations, and they will demonstrate a greater degree of critical engagement with the subject matter. They will also demonstrate some degree of original thinking. By contrast, most Bachelors Dissertation Presentations will be shorter in length and will only require a through knowledge of the topic rather than an original scholarly contribution of any kind.
What to Include
Broad subject area – What subject area of your discipline does your work fall into?
Narrow topic area – Within this subject area, what is your specific topic? (This may be simply an expanded discussion of your research title).
Relevant Existing Studies – What studies have already been done on your specific topic, and what are their strengths and weaknesses? How does your work fit among them?
Methodology and Philosophy – What methodology have you chosen to conduct your research? Is there a specific philosophical context? Why is this a good approach?
Project Resources – If this is a Mid-Research Presentation, what resources do you require to complete the project? Have you identified likely sources of funding, or do you need any difficult-to-acquire materials?
Case Studies – If you’ve conducted practical field work or lab research, why did you choose these cases or projects? How are they the best choices for researching your topic?
Research Results – If this is a Dissertation Presentation for Assessment, note the results of your research in detail. Relate these back to your theoretical framework and discuss how the results support or contradict existing studies.
How to Prepare for your Dissertation Presentation
The best way to prepare for your Dissertation Presentation is to review your work carefully. Take notes of the key decisions you have made throughout your research, and the scholarly literature that supports these choices. Make sure that you have a thorough understanding of the scholarly context of your research, which should have been achieved in your early research stages.
Once your content has been written, you should create a PowerPoint presentation to use during your talk. The slides should be informative but not wordy – keep bullet points concise and use pictures sparingly. Make sure that you rehearse your presentation several times.
What Sort of Questions to Prepare For Dissertation Presentation
The questions you will face in a Dissertation Presentation are designed to test your knowledge of the subject area and your awareness of the context of your work. You will be asked questions to determine how well you understand the potential criticisms of your project, and how well you are able to defend this with reference to established scholars and existing research.
You might be asked about the specific choices you’re made with regard to methodology and case studies, and how you accounted for any possible inaccuracies in your resulting data. Along the same lines, examiners frequently ask students what they would do differently if they were starting the same project again.
You should also be prepared to answer questions about the ways your research might be applied within your field, and how it might be supplemented in future. This is an effective way for examiners to assess the originality of your research, and consider its potential impact on your subject area.
How to Earn a High Mark
Much of your dissertation mark will come from the written work and the research project it represents. However, a good Dissertation Presentation will help make a strong case for a good overall mark, whereas a weak Presentation will confirm any doubts in the examiners’ minds. Here are a few key areas for success:
Good Presentation Skills. As with any Presentation, it is important to speak clearly and concisely. Stand still and look your audience in the eye, and try not to rely too much on notes. Be sure to keep breathing and don’t rush your words!
Knowledge of the Topic. If you truly have a good understanding of your topic you will be likely to do very well. Much of the Dissertation Presentation is designed simply to test your knowledge, so if you’ve kept pace with your reading assignments and practical work you should have no problem answering any questions that are posed to you.
Professional Behaviour. Stay calm and focused during your Presentation, and answer any questions with objectivity and professionalism. Don’t be drawn into debates, but instead offer references to other scholars whose work supports your own agenda.
Take Your Time. Many students make the mistake of rushing through their material and answering questions too quickly. This doesn’t give the audience a chance to thoroughly understand the quality of your work. Furthermore, it risks leaving out essential information and neglecting to demonstrate the depth of your research.
Good luck with your Dissertation Presentation!
Kjell Erik Rudestam, 2007. Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process. 3rd Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc.
University of Reading, 2013. Study Advice: Vivas. Available: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/studyadvice/postgraduates/sta-vivas.aspx Last Accessed 10 May, 2013.
University of Exeter, 2013. Guidelines for Dissertations. Available: http://intranet.exeter.ac.uk/humanities/studying/subjecthandbooks/theology/dissertations/ Last Accessed 10 May, 2013.