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Prepare a presentation 

Delve into the academic material and practise communicating about academic subjects. 

Oral presentations give you a chance to explore an academic topic in more detail than you normally do during your study programme. Making presentations is an opportunity to improve your skills at communicating your knowledge on a specific subject to your peers. However, for many people, making successful presentations takes practice. 

5 steps to a successful oral presentation 

When preparing your oral presentation, follow the five steps below. Following these steps will take you through all aspects of your presentation and not only prepare you for the academic topic, but also for the delivery of your presentation.  

Find relevant material

Find an issue in the academic material that is worth making a presentation about. 

When making oral presentations as part of teaching activities, the topic is often pre-defined, but it is up to you to decide on an angle. Usually, it is not enough to simply give an account of a text or similar. In by far the majority of cases, you are expected to work independently with the material. In other words, you have to identify an issue in the academic material that you find interesting and worth making a presentation about. 

Ask questions about the topic 

Identifying an issue will give you an angle on the topic. The angle determines what you have to include in your presentation, and what you need to disregard. It is impossible to cover everything in a relatively short oral presentation. 

Find an angle by:

  • Brainstorming about the topic.

  • Listing facts, points, questions, etc.

  • Exploring your topic from different angles with help from the Unfold the assignment exercise.

  • Finding a specific example of what you are going to talk about.

  • Writing non-stop about the topic for 10 minutes, see the Nonstop writing exercise.

  • Asking questions about the topic, such as what, who, where, when, why and how?

Ask your teacher if you are uncertain about the expectations. 

Structure the material

Structure the material by making an outline. 

Once you have identified and selected relevant material, you need to structure it. It is a good idea to make an outline that presents the material in the order that makes most sense to your audience. For example: 

  • Let your arguments govern the structure. Consider the order in which your arguments appear most convincing, and how to present your case to the audience in the most powerful way. Read more about argumentation 

  • Rearrange post-its. Write the content elements you want to include in your presentation on post-its or similar, and then move them around. When you go through the content, which order works best and seems most natural? 

  • Use a standard structure for your presentation. Below is an example outline for academic presentations. 

Example of outline 

This example outline can be used for both short and long academic presentations. 

Outline

Execution

Example

Introduction 

What do you want to talk about and how? Briefly introduce what you are going to talk about, and how you will go about it. 

"I’m going to talk about the text “Children's media use ". First, I’ll briefly present the text, and then I’ll focus on its key message, namely that the increase in media consumption is detrimental to children. I’ll review the text's reasoning behind this claim and then discuss... " 

Topic overview 

Give a brief overview of the topic. A brief topic overview could be a short summary of a text and possibly some background information about what you are going to talk about. This part of your presentation should usually be quite brief in order to avoid too much focus on reporting rather than analysing. 

"Children's media consumption mainly covers..." 

Claim 

What does the text/theory/model claim? Present the key points under discussion. 

"The key point of the text is that the increase in media consumption is detrimental to children." 

Reasoning 

What supports the claim? Why should we be convinced by the claim? What supports the claim? Present one or more examples from the text. 

"According to the text, several studies show that an increase in media consumption is detrimental to children. For example, one of them shows that... " 

Reservations 

What weakens the claim? What may weaken the claim? Is the method associated with potential problems? Do some data point in another direction? Could some findings be interpreted differently? 

"But even though there’s substantial evidence to back up the author’s claim, the study also has some methodical/practical/ethical/academic problems, for example...." 

Conclusion 

Sum up and give your own academic assessment. Summarise the elements above, followed by your own academic assessment. 

"In other words, the author believes that... The reasons for this are... The reservations to the claim are... Based on this, in my view... " 

 Download and print the outline here: 

Rephrase the material in your own words

Rephrase the material and adjust to your own linguistic style. 

Once you have decided on the order in which you want to present the material, you need to rephrase it in your own words. Keep in mind that you should be able to say it aloud in a natural manner and without reading from a manuscript. 

Therefore, it may be a good idea to say what you want to say out loud, and then write down your wording afterwards. Start by recording yourself or read out loud as you write to make sure that you use spoken language in your writing. 

Adjust your linguistic style  

When choosing your linguistic style, consider and adjust it according to the following three factors: 

Adjust your language to match:  

The purpose of the presentation

Not all presentations serve as a basis for assessing your academic knowledge. The purpose could also be to stimulate class discussion, give specific examples of a theory, or something else entirely.  

The background of your audience

Make sure your presentation is relevant for your audience, and provide the necessary background knowledge and definitions. Everything you say must be relevant to the audience. For example, place the topic in a wider academic context, ask essential questions about the material and consider how you communicate particularly complex aspects. Remember that your fellow students have not prepared a presentation about the topic, and that consequently, they may need background knowledge and definitions of words and concepts. You can't expect others to know the things that you didn't know before preparing your presentation. 

The principles of scientific quality

Express yourself clearly and make your points transparent. How do you take account of the abstract concept of “scientific quality” in a presentation? There are several very specific ways to do this. One of the requirements for scientific quality is clarity: It is important that you express yourself as accurately and clearly as possible so the audience does not misunderstand what you are saying. Another requirement is transparency: If you present the result of your own independent work, e.g. a product or interpretation, it should be clear how you have arrived at the result. 

Download the description of the three factors according to which the linguistic style of your presentation is to be adapted: 

Memorize the material

Use a manuscript to help you remember the material.  

It's okay to use a manuscript to jog your memory during your presentation, but avoid reading directly from the manuscript. Make sure that you are so familiar with your material and your manuscript that the manuscript only serves as a back-up that you can resort to during the presentation, if necessary. 

The more you practise the presentation, the more familiar you will be with the content, and this will make it easier for you to remember and deliver it naturally. 

The form of the manuscript 

Your manuscript can take precisely the form that matches your needs in a specific situation. Think about whether you need your manuscript to include specific wordings, or whether you just need an outline of your presentation. Consider the following types of manuscript: 

  • Detailed manuscript. Some people feel most comfortable having a detailed manuscript that they can resort to if they lose track during their presentation. Often, new thoughts and ideas will come up while writing a manuscript, but a detailed manuscript can be more difficult to handle when delivering the presentation. 

  • Key word manuscript. If you know the topic well, it may be useful to have a keyword manuscript that can serve as an extended outline during the presentation. It is easier to run your eyes down a keyword manuscript during your presentation without it taking too much focus.  

  • Zig-Zag manuscript. The detailed manuscript and the keyword manuscript can be combined by having the detailed manuscript on the right-hand side and adding keywords in the left-hand margin. 

Download a template for a Zig-Zag manuscript. 

Helpful tips on your manuscript 

Use spoken language 

It is easier to remember brief points on a topic than complex written language. 

Decide on a structure 

Build up your manuscript according to the structure selected. Write down the structure on a separate piece of paper so you can easily keep track of where you are. 

Think about how to start and end your presentation      

It is particularly important to be clear on how to start and conclude a presentation. Even if you choose a keyword manuscript, it is a good idea to write a coherent introduction and conclusion – just a few lines will do. 

Large font 

Choose a large font and large line spacing between sentences and sections. Highlight keywords in bold or with a highlighter marker. 

Page numbers 

Add page numbers. You may also staple the pages together to make sure the pages do not get mixed up. 

Read 

Read the manuscript a few times – at least twice, and preferably out loud. 

Practise 

Practicing your oral presentation in front of others or using a webcam will help you become more confident with your presentation. You will become more familiar with your material and your wordings, and it will help you control your nerves.Read more about nervousness 

Go through your manuscript before you start. Make your presentation in front of your study group, a friend, or a family member, and ask them to give you feedback. Or record your presentation, and watch the recording to evaluate yourself. 

Make the presentation

Make sure your presentation is engaging and understandable. 

For example, when making the presentation, keep in mind the importance of: 

  • Metacommunication, to guide the audience through your presentation and its key points 

  • Engaging the audience to make them want to listen and to keep their attention, ensuring that they find your presentation relevant and interesting 

  • Your body language, making sure it supports your presentation rather than being a distraction 

  • Your voice, and that is easy to understand what you are saying 

  • Your visual tools, and how they can support your communication