Presentations can be a little scary for college students. Especially, if you must present in front of a huge class. However, most students can alleviate presentation stress through preparation and regular practice.
Whether you’re in on-campus or in online classes, you should expect assignments that require you to present your work to professors and classmates. Many students feel uneasy with public speaking, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating.
The following 10 tips are designed to help students feel more comfortable with college presentations. Preparation and practice will improve your skills and confidence, resulting in a better experience overall, not to mention better grades.
1. Remember The Goal
Every class presentation has a purpose. There is a reason your professor required you to present in front of the class. Identify if the goal is to inform, persuade, inspire, or entertain. Once you’ve identified what you are trying to accomplish with the presentation it becomes easier to create it.
If you need to inform your classmates, do a lot of research, and use the strongest pieces of information you can find. If the goal is to persuade, find the most compelling arguments to convince your peers to believe what you are saying. If you want to inspire your audience, reach them on an emotional level by using inspirational stories that will cause them to feel something. If the purpose is to entertain, I recommend using humor or engaging stories to connect with your classmates and amuse them. Successful presentations incorporate different aspects of research, persuasion, inspiration, and humor to ensure you grab and keep your audience’s attention.
2. Be Prepared
To have a successful class presentation you must be prepared. This means starting on your presentation early. Do your research and prepare any slides, charts, or note cards in advance. This will allow you to practice your presentation while getting comfortable and familiar with these materials.
It’s important to practice your presentation verbally to get comfortable with the tone, pace, and volume of your voice. Also, practice presenting in front of friends and family to get comfortable presenting in front of an audience. Practicing will ensure you are prepared.
3. Know The Topic
One aspect of being prepared is knowing the subject matter you will be introducing. When you know the subject, you become confident with the information you are conveying to the audience. Do your research by putting in the time to learn the content of the presentation.
Trust me, the class will know if you haven’t prepared for the presentation. It will show. There’s a special type of confidence you gain when you know what you are talking about.
4. Be Interactive
One of the best ways to strengthen your presentation is to engage the audience. Connect with your audience and not just through your slides or notes. If you are connected with your audience your performance as a presenter is improved. There’s nothing worse than staring out at an audience who doesn’t even recognize you’re up there. Therefore, be sure to connect with them.
Here are a few ways to grab your audience’s attention and get them involved. Create a handout to pass out to them. This gives you and them something to do and can ease you into the beginning of the presentation. On your handout, you can summarize your topic or highlight key points. Another option may be to create a quick poll. This allows your audience to give their opinion and input. A great way to do this is by using Kahoot . Kahoot allows you to ask questions or create polls that students can respond to in real-time. During your presentation, you’ll be able to share the results with everyone. You can also make a fun quiz that sets the tone for the presentation.
Another critical aspect of keeping your audience’s attention is your tone, pace, and volume. If you have ever listened to a class presentation that was in a monotone, you probably don’t remember much of it. Your tone has the power to convey emotion, strength, confidence, or excitement. Emphasizing certain words throughout your presentation can increase your ability to keep the audience engaged.
5. Be Prepared To Improvise
Practice does make perfect, especially when it comes to class presentations. However, no matter how much you have practiced the universe might just dish out a little bit of Murphy’s Law—if something can go wrong, it will. Perhaps your presentation has a glitch or equipment fails. Maybe you left some of your notes or handouts at home. Or your audience isn’t engaged. Whatever the reason, you need to prepare for the worst because it might be necessary to improvise.
If you know your topic it will be easier to improvise. You will be able to pivot and keep the flow of the presentation moving when something springs up.
6. Use Your Media Wisely
The media used will greatly depend on your presentation’s requirements. Your professor may or may not want you to use note cards. They may require you to present with software such as PowerPoint and have visual information, charts, photos, and other graphics. Then again it might be prohibited. If your professor allows media, use it wisely.
Note cards or speaker cards are crucial for remembering important details. You shouldn’t have to remember every detail on your own, especially if it’s a particularly long presentation. These should include parts of your class presentation that are difficult to remember, facts or numbers, and direct quotes or questions. Preparing and using note cards will allow you to feel more confident and help you remember the important details. However, these shouldn’t be your entire presentation written out. Nor should you completely read your presentation from your note cards.
When using a PowerPoint presentation, I recommend using Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule. Basically, no PowerPoint presentation should be more than 10 slides, no longer than 20 minutes, and use fonts smaller than 30 point size. Use good topic-related images when possible.
7. Be Considerate Of Time Requirements
Many professors give a minimum and maximum time limit. Be mindful of this as you may lose points if you go under or over. Also, it’s important to consider the attention span of your audience. If your class presentation is required to be between 10 minutes to 15 minutes, 12 minutes is the sweet spot.
8. Focus on Your Body Language
Your body language says a lot about you. It tells your audience if you are comfortable, prepared, anxious, relaxed, or even angry. Your body language will reflect your confidence and professionalism as you are presenting.
Watch your posture. Stand up straight and don’t let your shoulders droop. Use natural hand gestures as you speak or to guide your audience to look at something on the screen. If you are using note cards, they should be at waist height. Eye contact is very important. Occasionally make eye contact with different members of the audience, not holding it too long.
I want you to try your hardest not to use the words, “um” and “like”. These filler words show that you did not prepare, or you are nervous. They can also imply you don’t know what you are going to say next. I hear, “I mean” and “you know” a lot in presentations and it’s just so distracting. The last thing you want to do is pull your audience from your presentation.
9. Dress For Success
You’ve heard it time and time again, dress for success. What you wear does matter because it reflects an image to your audience. While your wardrobe can make a good impression on those around you it can also boost your confidence too.
Your presentation outfit should look professional and be something you are comfortable in. Put a little extra time into your clothing and appearance to project an image of professionalism.
10. End With A Q&A
The best way to end a presentation is with a quick Q&A. Wrapping things up with a Q&A accomplishes a few things. First, it allows the presentation to end naturally and seamlessly. Secondly, if you were unclear or if there were any misunderstandings you are giving your audience a chance for clarification. Thirdly, it provides an opportunity to engage with the audience. Finally, allowing students to ask questions will show your professor that you are so confident with your subject matter that you welcome discussion and inquiry.
Be sure to check out my list of businesses that will pay for college tuition in the Ultimate Guide To Companies That Will Pay For College.