Stellar Presentations for College Students
Published on April 19, 2017 by Tom Westover
While public speaking is the greatest fear of many people, being able to give a dynamic presentation is a skill that will make you sought after by prospective employers as well as help you succeed in your university studies and other endeavors. Planning your presentation is important, and then practice, practice, practice. It is a good idea to time your presentation, because you may think it is much longer than it actually is.
The shortcut formula for a good presentation is “tell ‘em what you are going to tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.” Basically, your presentation has three parts: the introduction, the heart of the talk, and the conclusion. While some people like to put their notes on index cards and some people like to write out their presentation, you want to make sure that you do not read the presentation. Make sure that you make eye contact with your audience during the presentation. An upbeat, energetic delivery will keep your audience engaged, regardless of your topic.
As you begin to plan your presentation, think about your audience. Do they already know about the topic or are they experts on the topic already? Are they interested by the topic or are they there because they have to be there? Evaluating your audience will help you decide on the organization of your presentation as well as the vocabulary you use. You may be able to use complex jargon or you may need to explain the terms you use to your audience. You may be able to skip the basics on your topic or you may be able to just give information for those knowledgeable about the topic.
Many people say that the most important part of your presentation is the introduction. You should start with an attention getter. It can be a startling statistic, a joke, a shocking news event, or a famous quote. An example may be “Did you know that over 600 universities have had hackers get access to student and employee data in the last decade? Did you know that data breaches involving over one million records has a 99.332% likelihood of occurring in the next year, and breaches involving 10 million records has a 86.2% likelihood of occurring in the next 3 years?” Or you may begin with a news story: “A Russian hacker who goes by the name of Rasputin entered the information systems of over two dozen universities and nearly 40 state and federal government agencies earlier this year. This data breach displayed new strategies for hackers to use to steal data.” Or a quotation like “A computer expert said, ‘It’s not if another large data breach will occur, it is when.’” Jokes may not work for every topic, but making the audience laugh is a great way to begin if appropriate for the specific presentation.
Following your attention getter, you should give a brief outline of what you plan to cover. For example, you may describe the presentation in general terms. For example, “First I will tell about the different types of hacking popular today. Then I will describe what uses hackers can make of the data that they steal, and finally I will tell what strategies can be used to prevent data breaches.”
For the heart of your presentation, you need to include specific details and organize them well. You may organize the presentation by chronological order, by beginning to end, by general ideas to specific points, by specific points to general ideas, by step-by-step explanations, or by another system that fits your specific topic. Include many more details than you think you will need for the time slot you have. It’s better to have too much information than not enough. You want to make sure that your information is timely and accurate. Share information that is not common knowledge or “old news” to your audience. Read up on your topic and include ideas of “experts” in the field of your presentation.
The conclusion of your speech is also very important. Here you summarize the major ideas that you have covered, and end with actions the audience should take. You may suggest sources where the listeners can find out more about the topic. You may tell the listeners what they need to do about the topic of the presentation. An example may be “While computer experts discover new ways to protect data and law enforcement prosecutes hackers, you can do some things to protect your data yourself. For example, use strong passwords, change your passwords frequently, and use different passwords for different apps. Keep virus protection up to date on your computers and other devices. Monitor your credit information frequently. Protect yourself as much as you can.”
Now that you have written out your presentation, you may want to use multimedia to enhance and reinforce your ideas. Power point presentations are often used to reinforce your points and give a visual prompt for the audience to follow. You may also use video clips, music clips, or even artwork or cartoons to reinforce your ideas or add interest to your presentation. Once you have completed the powerpoint or video, practice your speech with the multimedia to make sure it goes smoothly. You may want to print out a notes page of your powerpoint to give audience members in case the projector does not work properly or the computer fails. Always have a plan B!
Following your presentation’s conclusion, you want to give the audience members an opportunity to respond to the presentation. The most common way to do this is to open up a question-and-answer period. Let audience ask questions that they may have about your presentation. Another way to do this is to hand out note paper at the beginning of your presentation and ask the audience members to write down questions that they have and collect them at the end of your presentation. You may want to share your email for questions that come up, or you may even post your powerpoint presentation or voice recording to dropbox and share the access information.
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