Before you develop a presentation or talk, take some time to consider why you want to communicate, what you want to get across and who you are trying to engage.
- what the talk is trying to achieve
- why you're engaging this particular audience
- the social and ethical issues that might arise from your talk
- pitching your talk at the right level
Presentations can be used for a variety of purposes including:
- to promote the results of a recent study, activity or discovery
- to inform an audience and promote discussion and debate on an important societal issue
- to support and enhance education related to your research
- to inspire school children and their families to take an interest in careers in your subject area
- to consult groups or communities on their opinions and insights about a particular issue or to inform subsequent research activity
Make your talk engaging
In planning a talk or presentation the first thing to consider is how to make it engaging. Involve the audience as much as possible by creating space for questions and answers and allowing them to share their opinions.
Audience voting mechanisms, getting the audience to move around and allowing volunteers to assist in demonstrations will maintain interest and keep the audience’s energy levels up. Try a mix of approaches to cater for different members of the audience. Common approaches include:
- Discussion and debate: A direct verbal lecture and the opportunity for discussion between the speakers and audience.
- Visual aides: PowerPoint slides, video, striking images, demonstrations, charts and graphs. Avoid slides with too much text which can be distracting.
- Objects and interaction: Passing around tangible objects and creating opportunities for audience members to draw or build something can make them feel involved.
- Anecdotes and storytelling: Sharing inspiring stories, interesting examples and engaging anecdotes will help non specialist audiences to understand complicated issues and will maintain their interest more effectively than a series of facts.
- Audience self reflection: Opportunities that allow audience members to learn something about themselves (and to reflect upon their own views) can be useful.
Get to know your audience
Do your research. Think about:
- their interests and motivations
- their background and likely prior knowledge, values and preconceptions
- the issues you're discussing that will directly affect them
Be careful of assumptions and stereotypes. See our Understanding Audiences guide for more information.
Be prepared for conflict and questions that you may not know the answer to. Be honest and explain when a question is outside your area of expertise.
- How will you market the event? If you are hosting your own public lecture, you will need to find ways of raising awareness and encouraging attendance from your target audience.
- Think about timing and location. Is this suitable to the majority of people in your target audience? Do you need to think about transport? How will the audience get to and from the venue?
- Think about catering. Do you need to provide refreshments? Are there any special dietary requirements? Do you know exact audience numbers? If not how many should you cater for? At what point in the event should refreshments be provided?
- Arrange audio visual requirements in advance. Do you need a laptop and projector? Is there an internet connection? Do you need a microphone? How do you want the room to be laid out?
- Consider accessibility and inclusion. Is there access for people with mobility issues? Are your visual aides suitable for people with visual impairments? Do you need an interpreter to provide sign language or a foreign language interpreter for non-English speakers? Are your jokes funny to a 7 year old?
- Do your demonstrations require a risk assessment?
- Practice makes perfect. You might want to practice your talk in front of someone that you know will give you honest feedback.
- Turn up early. There will always be early birds who arrive to 'get a good seat' so make sure you set up in advance.