Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Presentations and posters

Guidance and tips for producing effective oral and visual presentations.

 

This is a generic resource for presentations that should be taken as such. You should consult your course / programme handbook, course webpage, programme director or project supervisor for subject-specific guidance surrounding your presentation.

Presenting in academia

Presenting is a way of telling other people about your work and a way of demonstrating your knowledge and familiarity of your subject. You may present to a specialist audience (your peers, programme lecturers or research practitioners) or to a wider field (such as at a conference). Oral and poster presentations can also be assessed, for example as an in course assignment or as part of your dissertation.

There are a few key points that you should consider with any sort of presenting:

  • What is the purpose? Is it to summarize a novel or report the results of an experiment?
  • Who is your audience? How does the audience type change your presentation?
  • What content needs to be included? Do you need to cover everything or just one topic?
  • How should it be organised? Do you need to give detailed background? Or do you start with the result that led you to find something else?
  • How is it going to be delivered? Is it a poster? Is it a 5 minute talk or a 50 minute lecture?

Planning a presentation

Any presentation should be structured in a logical order, telling your audience the story of your work. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to prepare a good presentation. It takes time to develop the skill to succinctly deliver your ideas.

The interaction between you and the audience during a talk is a great way of generating discussions and finding solutions. Oral presentations can be small or large, formal or informal, with or without slides. You should present in a logical and explicit order and answer any questions from the audience.

The beginning

This is your introduction where you need to set the scene for your audience and set out what they can expect to gain from your presentation. It should highlight the key topic(s) and give any necessary background. How much background depends on your audience - your programme peers might need less of an introduction to a topic than research practitioners.

You might also have to contextualise your work slightly differently too. Your work may be of interest to researchers, the public and / or your markers, but they will probably be looking at it from different perspectives.

The middle

This is where you tell the story of your work. You should use it to explain your key point(s). To find your key point(s), try to sum up the purpose of your presentation in a single sentence. The key point(s) are the necessities you need to present to get your message across. This section might also include relevant methods and materials.

The end

This is your conclusion or summary where you briefly recap what it is you’ve presented. It’s important not to let your presentation just fizzle out; make it clear that it’s the end. If you are giving a talk, this is usually when the audience will ask questions. You could prepare additional slides that you can use to answer anticipated questions from the audience or to expand on some aspect of your talk.

Prepare, practise and present

Once you’ve worked out the key points, you then need to prepare your presentation, practise it (if it’s an oral presentation), think about the questions you may get asked, and finally, present. Giving a talk is a performance and for most of us, it takes practise. Once you’ve planned and prepared your talk practise it, practise it and practise it some more! Your audience wants to be part of a conversation about your work, not talked at. Practice out loud in front of a mirror or to your peers.

It is also worth practising using the technology you have, or choose, to use to deliver your presentation. Have you ever been to a talk where the technology delayed or prevented a presentation? As an audience member, it is frustrating. As the presenter, it can be seen as embarrassing and unprofessional.

If you can, find out what resources and equipment you will have. For example, is there a microphone? If not, you will need to practice speaking loudly enough so that the room can hear you. If there is a microphone, is it fixed (i.e. so are you) or portable? Are you required to bring a laptop or is there a computer you need to download your presentation onto? How will you progress the slides (keyboard or clicker)?

Using slides in a presentation

Slides should be used to guide the audience and signpost key points, not a script for you to read. If you have everything on the slides, the audience will read ahead and get bored. The number of slides you can present will depend on the time you have. Title and outline slides can be read through quickly.

Slides with information (text or picture), need time for the audience to look at them, listen to what you are saying and then understand it (usually about a minute). It is your job to tell the audience exactly what they should be getting from a slide - if it’s a graph or picture, explain it to them.

Information Services have a wide range of resources on how to use software to design a presentation (see links at the bottom the page). As the presenter, it is your responsibilities to make the presentation accessible for your audience.

Posters

A poster is a quick way of visually conveying information about your work. It is meant to be a taster of your work, not an in-depth explanation and discussion. Your poster should communicate your point effectively without you there to explain it.

If the poster is assessed or for a conference, there may be a size and format which you need to stick to (for example, A1 portrait or A0 landscape). You should always have a title, your name and email address so people know who you are and how to contact you. It is considered good practice to include your supervisor’s name and email as well.

You should also include a high resolution image of the university’s logo and the logos of any other funders or collaborators. Information services have a wide range of resources including help on using software such as PowerPoint to make a poster.

Information Services - Digital skills and training