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Countway Practical Presentation Skills

Supporting Countway's weekly workshops designed for researchers working on presentations and public speaking skills



On this page you will find many of the tips and common advice that we cover within our Practical Presentation Skills Workshop.

If you are hoping to attend a workshop in the future, please check the schedule of upcoming classes, and reserve your spot. Space does fill up each week, so please register early!

Presentation Slides

Creating slides to accompany your presentation can be a great way to provide complimentary visual representation of your topic. Slides are used to fill in the gaps while you tell the story.

Start your presentation with a brief introduction- who you are and what you are going to talk about. 

Think about your presentation as a story with an organized beginning (why this topic), middle (how you did the research) and end (your summary findings and how it may be applicable or inform future research). You can provide a brief outline in the introduction so the audience may follow along. 

Keep it simple with a few key concepts, examples and ideas.

advice: be human and emotional; audiences don't like robots

Story Telling

Make sure your audience knows the key takeaway points you wish to get across.

A good way to practice this is to try and condense your presentation into an elevator pitch- what do you want the audience to walk away know? 

Show your enthusiasm!

If you don’t think it is interesting- why should your audience?


Presentation Software

Some Good Alternatives to PowerPoint:

  1. Google Slides
  2. Keynote (Mac) 
  3. Prezi 
  4. Zoho Show 
  5. PowToon 
  6. CustomShow 
  7. Slidebean 
  8. Haiku Deck 
  9. Visme 
  10. Emaze 
  11. and more… 


Body Language

Your body language speaks volumes to how confident you are on the topic, how you are feeling up on stage and how receptive you are to your audience. Confident body language, such as smiling, maintaining eye contact, and persuasive gesturing all serve to engage your audience.

  1. Don’t psych yourself out! You know this material. Tell your research story with a beginning, middle and end.
  2. Make eye contact with those in the audience that are paying attention and ignore the rest!
  3. Speak slower than what you would normally, take a moment to smile at your audience, and project your voice. Don’t rush, what you have to say is important!
  4. Don’t’ forget to breathe. Deep breaths and positive visualization can helps slow that pounding heart.
  5. Work on making pauses where you can catch your breath, take a sip of water, stand up straight, and continue at your practiced pace.
  6. Sweaty palms and pre-presentation jitters are no fun. Harness that nervous energy and turn it into enthusiasm! Exercising earlier in the day can help release endorphins and help relieve anxiety.
  7. Feeling shaky? Practicing confident body language is one way to boost your pre-presentation jitters. When your body is physically demonstrating confidence, your mind will follow suit. Standing or walking a bit will help you calm those butterflies before you go on stage.
  8. Don’t be afraid to move around and use the physical space you have available but keep your voice projected towards your audience.
  9. Practice, practice, practice! Get to the next Practical Presentation Skills workshop in Countway Library and practice your talk in front of a supportive and friendly group!

What to avoid in your slides

  1. Excessive bullet points
  2. Reading your slides instead of telling your story
  3. Avoid excessive transitions and gimmick
  4. Numerous charts (especially all on the same slide)
  5. Lack of enthusiasm and engagement from you
  6. Too much information and data dump
  7. Clutter and busy design
  8. Lack of design consistency 


Now you are on stage!

When delivering the talk, watch out for these bad habits:

  1.  Avoiding eye-contact
  2. Slouching or bad posture
  3. Crossed arms
  4. Non-purposeful movement
  5. Not projecting your voice
  6. Speaking away from the microphone
  7. Speaking with your back to the audience (often happens when reading slides)


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