Step 1: Plan
Step 2: Prepare
Once you – and any fellow presenters – have decided upon the subject and messages or story of your talk, you will need to give structure to your ideas: introduce your subject and the aims of the talk, and grab the audience’s attention; explore and develop your subject area and the messages you want to convey; finish with a summary of what you have presented as well as any conclusions reached, achievements or lessons learnt.
You may find it helpful to write out your presentation in full first before honing it down to notes. You can then create a series of cue cards. These should contain the most important points and keywords of the presentation, which match up with the slideshow or other visual aids you prepare. The visual cues will help. Remember that it is quite acceptable to read out your presentation from a prepared script – particularly if you are nervous. However, in general, a presentation comes over better when you can talk openly on the subject, or with a few key point notes.
Make sure you know how long your presentation slot is. It is good practice not to run over your allocated time, so practise beforehand with a timer.
Use plain English and explain any specialist architectural, construction or archaeological terms, acronyms of any kind, and Gaelic, non-English or local dialect words you use. [link to SUP glossary when it is ready]
You can engage the audience in numerous ways beyond the text and images of your presentation.
There are many answers to this question and often the number depends on the content, context or the event. Generally, fewer are better. This will help you avoid speeding through your presentation and talking too quickly. Why not try two minutes per image? During your preparations you will find what best suits your presentation.
Step 3: Practice
Practising your presentation will help you feel more at ease when you speak at an event or conference and will help you to keep to your allotted time slot, develop a smoother delivery, and learn your cue cards and slideshow. Give yourself sufficient time to practise your talk several times before the conference or event.
Step 4: Perform
The day of your presentation is here!
In order to keep them engaged, you may like to include questions to the audience during your talk. These might be rhetorical questions to get them thinking or, if you are an experienced and confident presenter, questions to which you would like answers straight away, making your presentation interactive. Bear in mind that questions to the audience have the potential to evolve into discussions or debates that may distract from the theme of your talk and cause the talk to overrun.
Time is usually set aside for questions from the audience. Often questions are invited immediately after your talk; sometimes a question and answer session will be held after several presentations with a number of presenters answering questions together.
Audience questions can be very varied. Some people will want to know more about the subject you presented on, while others will want to know what else you know about your subject. Others will want to challenge you on something you have said, the way your group carried out an aspect of project work, research or a conclusion you have reached. There may also be questions about something linked only very slightly to your subject or there might not be any questions at all.
Audience questions are usually managed by an event organiser or chairperson overseeing several presentations. This person is there to help keep the questions moving and to help avoid long discussions or disagreements. These sessions are very spontaneous, so be prepared to think on your feet. To give yourself a few moments to consider an answer, you can use statements like ‘that’s a really good question’ or ‘I’m glad you asked about that.’ If you do not know something, do not worry, perhaps someone else from your group in the audience can help. Alternatively you can offer to provide an answer at some future point, by email for instance.