student presenting at conference

Presentation Tips


Tips for a Great Presentation

Focus on your audience

What’s a great way to ensure your audience pays attention to your presentation? Make it about them. Tailor your presentation to the needs, interests and expectations of your listeners. Communicate how your topic is relevant to them. Find common ground with your audience. Use inclusive language and personal pronouns.

  • Rather than saying "I know most people worry about..." try “I know most of you worry about..."
  • Draw upon common experiences like, "Do you remember the first time you walked into a college classroom?"

Actively Engage

Find ways to make your audience part of your presentation. Use games, questions, polls, or something as simple as asking them to raise their hands. Not only will this connect you to your audience more effectively, it will help reduce any speaker anxiety you might be experiencing.

Break Up Content

Even the most diligent students can only attend to about 15-20 minutes of straight lecture. Speak any longer than that without a break, and you risk losing your audience. Break your lecture into 15-20 minute “mini-lectures.” At the end of each mini-lecture, incorporate a question, poll, reflective writing, or other audience engagement technique.


Using visual aids allows for multi-modal learning and increases listening. Assuming, of course, the visual aids are done well. Incorporating dynamic images encourages metaphorical thinking and aids student learning. Using humorous or dramatic slides to make your point also engages the listeners emotions, which aids retention of the material. Staring at a lot of words or numbers on the screen is overwhelming for most people, even if that data reinforces you key points. Put any complicated data into easily-understandable visualizations. There are a number of excellent resources for creating infographics and other forms of data visualization.

Make Eye Contact

This may seem obvious, but it is easy to forget when you are nervous. People tend to pay attention more to those who look them in the eye. Avoiding eye contact makes speakers seem less trustworthy and less confident. Don’t stare at one person. Look at different people throughout your talk and connect with everyone at least once. If you are speaking to a large crowd, try focusing on different parts of your audience throughout your talk.


Standing in the same spot communicates a lack of confidence and an unwillingness to connect with you audience. Move into the audience space as much as possible. Don’t lock yourself in place by standing directly next to your computer or behind a podium during your presentation. Use a clicker or wireless mouse to advance your slides to free yourself from your computer. If you are using a mic, try using a body mic that allows you to move about the space.

Face your Audience

Your talk is a conversation with an audience. Don’t turn your back on them. Many presenters make the mistake of looking at their own slides or the whiteboard while speaking. Imagine you were in a casual conversation with someone who constantly turned their back to you! Not only does it send a message that you don’t want to connect to your audience, it’s also rude.


A simple, yet potent way to make a human connection with others is to smile. When we are nervous we sometimes forget this powerful tool of audience engagement.

Visual Aid Tips

  • Use images: If your slides are nothing but text, they cease to be a visual aid. Images capture the audience’s attention and can elicit powerful emotions.
  • Ditch bullet points: Put each key point on a separate slide. If that is not practical, limit yourself to 3-5 bullets per slide and 3-5 words per bullet.
  • Use animation sparingly: When it comes to things flying around the screen, less is more.
  • Think big: If you must include text, make it large! Think of the poor people at the back of the room.
  • Forget PowerPoint: Avoid using PowerPoint templates. They are overused and out of date.  There are many programs that include far more dynamic images and graphic styles.
  • Expand beyond slides: Consider other types of visual aids. Actual objects, videos, and even basic drawings on the board can break up a long lecture more than slide after slide after slide.
  • Focus on key ideas: The biggest mistake most presenters make is trying to cram too much content onto the slide and essentially using their slides as speaker notes. Put only key ideas on slides and if you require speaker notes or want to share extensive content with your audience, create a handout.
  • Practice with visuals: Using visuals for the first time during your talk can make you look ill prepared and increase anxiety.
  • Have back up: Always practice your presentation without visuals or have some back-up method. Technology is not 100% reliable, as anyone with a car can tell you.

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