Image credit: Ian Paterson

5 Tips for Great Student Presentations

I recently spent a couple of weeks assessing final year undergraduate presentations on drug discovery topics. Overall, the standard was excellent, and most of the students seemed to get a lot from the experience. I certainly enjoyed it! However, there’s always room for improvement - indeed, I always finish my own presentations with ideas of how I could make it better next time. Here’s 5 tips for a great presentation.

1. What are your 3 key points?

An audience can only take so much away from any talk, no matter how well crafted. Focus on up to 3 key points. No more! Prepare your whole talk with these three points in mind. Focus on these points in your intro and summary. Make them explicit. When you’ve finished your slides, go back through them - how do they relate to the take-home messages you are trying to get across?

2. Does your talk reflect the title?

When you’ve finished your slides, go back to your title - does your talk reflect your title? Eg. If it is ‘Application of technique X to problems Y’, do you talk about the technique AND applications? Do your intro and summary slides fully reflect the whole topic?

3. Practice, practice, practice! Practice at the venue

Some have the ‘gift of the gab’, but most will give a better presentation, the more you practice. If possible, test out your presentation in the venue beforehand. Are all the slides legible from the back row? This is also the perfect place to practice your talk.

4. No script!

Reach the point where you can talk about the slides without reciting from a script. Whether written on the slides, a sheet of paper or memorised, a script normally results in a less engaging talk. Audience engagement is so important and hard to achieve with a scripted speech. Speaker notes are ok, incase you get stuck, but not whole sentences.

5. Turn up to the venue early

Preload your talk, find where the ‘Start presentation’ button is and go through at least a few slides to make sure everything is working ok. If using a pointing device - practice. Try out the microphone, try out the lights, get used to the stage. Get a friend to sit in the back row and give feedback. On that matter - practice in front of friends, peers, mentors as much as you can and listen to their feedback!

Notice that all of my tips relate to preparation - to my mind, that is the biggest differentiator! Good luck, and knock their socks off!

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