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Researching & Writing a Scholarly Paper: How to give successful presentations

This guide is there to assist you with the basics of researching and writing in the academic world

1. Plan

Always know what you want your presentation to accomplish and what message you want to give your audience.

To achieve this, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is the key point of your presentation?
  • What are your 4-6 key ideas? Are they clearly stated?


  • Create an outline in short sentences for distribution
  • On a sheet of paper (to refer by you at time of presentation), condense your ideas to key words
  • Choose a presentation technique:
    • Will you reinforce your key ideas by providing evidence for your points (key facts, statistics, analogies or demonstrations)?
    • Will you use visuals (charts or graphs; images or pictures; quotes or cartoons)?
    • Will you want to involve your audience? How? (Will you invite audience to ask questions? Will you ask questions of your audience? Will your handout provide discussion points?)

4. Perform

Every presentation is a personal performance. The more of yourself you put into the presentation, the more effectively you'll communicate your message.

Keep the audience involved by having:

  • good eye contact
  • dynamic body movement
  • carefully crafter verbal phrasing
  • well-balanced vocal variety

Achieve these by:

  • Establishing good rapport: be yourself; be sincere; talk to your audience's expressed interests; involve your audience
  • Holding their attention: speak slowly; breathe naturally; be clear and concise; tell a story; use vivid words; be enthusiastic
  • Don't forget to... watch your time!

2. Prepare

Establish a positive mindset - visualise your success, accept nervous tension.

Know your material: review key ideas, and present your view (you are not necessarily the expert on the subject, but you have views that you can express in sentences such as "this is what I am thinking about..." or "from my perspective..."

Select a snappy title, and prepare an engaging opening sentence

Prepare a memorable set of closing remarks: offer a challenge; stress relevance of your presentation to the field; summarise key points.

Once you have completed your preparation, it should have the following features:

  • Relevance to your audience
  • Quality of content
  • Eye-appeal and visibility
  • Memorability

Prepare and pull together all the tools you'll need to success as far in advance as you can:

  • Your personal speaking skills
  • Your audience-focused presentation text, all your handout materials and any product, props and audiovisual equipment you'll need
  • Review
    • Content of your slides with space for notes
    • Important background information
    • Detailed data, models and graphs
    • Citations or bibliography
    • Be sure your handout includes: title of presentation, your name, your title, institution, address, email, phone number, FAX number, URL (if applicable)

5. Polish

Good presentations depend on good follow-up evaluation.

Ask for and use objective evaluations from yourself and others to help you improve.

3. Practice

Always run through your entire presentation exactly as you plan to present it, so you'll know all the parts work together before you get in front of an audience. Think ahead about distracting elements that may take away attention from your message.

Questions you should keep in mind:

  • What is the size of the room and how will that affect your presentation?
  • Is there enough light to read your notes?
  • Ask a friend to listen to your presentation:
    • Check your mannerisms
    • Check the volume and tone of your voice
    • Check your visuals

Top 10 mistakes

  1. Failure to speak to time
  2. Material is not suited to your audience
  3. Your presentation suffers from information overload
  4. Material is too technical
  5. Poor preparation
  6. Failure to practice-practice-practice
  7. Distracting or very detailed visuals, distracting verbal expressions
  8. Inappropriate pace (not too much material to cover; restrict yourself to 4 key ideas)
  9. Lack of eye contact
  10. Lack of enthusiasm