Universiteit Leiden

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Speaking skills

Many students find speaking in front of their classmates and lecturers nerve-wracking. Giving a presentation can be rather stressful. But good preparation is half the battle and following the tips below can help reduce any anxiety.

Action plan for giving a presentation

  1. Choose an interesting topic. You might have a choice of several topics provided by your lecturer, or you may be free to choose for yourself. An interesting topic will make it easier to be enthusiastic about your presentation.
  2. Define you topic. Be specific and to the point or you’ll lose your audience’s attention.
  3. Collect information about the topic.
  4. Make an outline of your presentation. A mind-map can help. 
  5. If your prefer write the text out in full. A presentation consists of an introduction, a main section (the actual information) and an ending. Separate the main topics from the minor points to make it easier for the audience to follow you. Repeat the most important information several times but worded differently and give examples. This will clarify your message and make it easier for listeners to remember the main points. You can also use visual images to support your presentation. At the end of your presentation summarise your message briefly and clearly.
  6. Choose your tools, for example PowerPoint.
  7. Practice! Your posture and body language determine a large part of the effect of your presentation on the audience. Practice your presentation at home in front of a mirror. Pay particular attention to your facial expression and hands.
  8. Check your materials. Arrive at the venue in good time and make sure your PowerPoint works, the projector is on and you know where the flip-chart is. Technical problems will disrupt your presentation and make you unnecessarily stressed.

Ten tips for presenting



1. Start preparing your presentation in good time.

1. Put off preparing until the last minute.

2. Write down the main points of the presentation.

2. Come up with a story without a clear structure or plan.

3. Make a clear and interesting PowerPoint presentation as a basis.

3. Pack your PowerPoint with information.

4. Stand up, you will be more convincing that way.

4. Keep your hands in your pockets.

5. Have an open posture.

5. Fidget or move your hands around too much.

6. Find an original opening statement.

6. Read the whole presentation from your notes.

7. Make eye contact with the audience.

7. Stare at your notes or at one particular point in the room.

8. Provide examples to clarify abstract/theoretical information.

8. Just rattle off facts.

9. End with a catchy final sentence.

9. Rush through your story.

10. Take the time to answer questions.

10. Doubt your knowledge on your chosen subject.

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