The Do's and Don'ts of Giving a Presentation

Updated: Oct 31, 2016

Most college students, at one point or another in their academic career, will be required to give a presentation or speech in a class for a grade. Some may be required to pass a Speech course for their major, but most will surely be required to give a presentation in a number of classes.

While it is not a science by any means, giving a presentation or a speech can be a lot of fun. It is a skill an individual will have and develop over the course of their lives, one that will earn them jobs, a good salary – because they will be able to master the art of verbal communication.

A List of the Most Crucial Do’s and Don’ts of Giving of Presentation: 

THE DO'S

• Prepare and Visualize a Successful Speech or Presentation

It has been noted that some of the world’s greatest athletes have the same mental habit for when they compete: in their minds, they literally visualize a victory – from start to finish. They prepare themselves mentally for what they are about to do. The same principle can be applied to giving a speech, whether in the real world or in the classroom. The speaker, long before they are to give the speech, can visualize having a successful outcome and delivering a fantastic speech. But having great success at something also comes from the work, which is done before this positive visualization approach is to occur. A speech or presentation should first of all be well researched; it should illustrate an argument or theme, and first be written out in the form of an essay.

• Be Presentable

Looking the part is half the battle. When people are bathed and well dressed, when people look their best, they most times will exude confidence – which is often the most crucial tool of success when talking in front of a large room.

• Remember to Breathe and Take a Few Seconds to Gather a Thought

Breathing during a speech not only breaks the monotony of a speech, it also relaxes the speaker and helps them concentrate. What’s more important: It’s the speaker’s floor – if they want to take a few seconds to gather their thoughts, no one will interrupt them. A few seconds will seem an eternity. But only to the speaker. Take advantage of breathing.

• Be Confident – But Not Arrogant – and Smile Often

Speaking in front of people is part of life. A student required to give one in college may as well just accept this inevitable fact. With that said, they may as well also embrace the art and skill of giving a good speech and learn how to excel at it. Once again, having a confident, optimistic attitude is half the battle. The other half is a combination of preparation and showing up. And smile. It relaxes the room and the speaker.

• Make Brief Eye Contact With Audience

It’s a speech to one’s peers. Not a case of a judge. This assignment is an exercise in communication. Learn the seemingly simple yet very complex art of communicating now. One’s career will thank them in 10, 20 years from now. Learn now that people are what matters. Individualize people. It makes them feel special, which means they will then listen to the speaker’s speech and become engaged.

• Be Loud Enough So That the Entire Room Can Hear the Speech

Don’t shout to the audience – but don’t be a mouse, either. Learn to get people’s attention without making them feel physically uncomfortable.

• Say “Like,” “Uh” and “Um” minimally. Pause Instead.

This is the difference in sounding intelligent and sounding like an ignoramus. Honestly. Start being cognizant of saying this now in college. By the end of one’s college career, they may even have rid themselves of these words altogether.

• Improvise

The point of the speech or presentation is being entertaining and engaging to an audience. Don’t be afraid to go off script. Just remember that most assignments have a time limit and students are often judged on making a case for something. But, nonetheless, focus on giving a presentation.

• Tell An Anecdote or Ask a Question

Starting a speech with a question for the audience or with a personal anecdote is often all a speaker needs to grab their audience’s attention. Though keeping it is a completely different story and challenge altogether.

• Avoid Being Dull and Lifeless

Whatever topic the student giving the speech or presentation is expounding on, it should generally be one they are interested or even quite passionate about. When they breathe their own excitement into a subject, it will generally feed into the audience’s curiosity and excitement as well.

THE DON'TS

• Apologize for a Mistake – Don’t Apologize for Anything, It’s the Speaker’s Floor

Really, when giving a speech, remember there is no other speaker talking at that time. It is their time to do as they wish; it is their time to be evaluated. They should make the most of it and treat it as their time to fulfill their objective – and no one else’s.

• Read ONLY From Notes. Instead of Talking to the Audience.

Don’t read just from notes or notecards. Those are just to prompt thought. Get used to going off a single thought and expounding on it naturally. That is the skill of public speaking.

• Stand Still.

Move around, be a person. Be interesting. Don’t put the audience to sleep. Have some energy. Bounce around the room to get their attention. That’s all that matters: holding the audience’s attention.

• Mumble. Instead, Speak Clearly and Slowly If Needed.

If the audience has to strain to understand their speaker, they would rather just lose interest and think of something else. When they have no choice but to hear their speaker, because the speaker is eloquent and projects their voice when talking, they will listen and become engaged and most times will find their speaking’s message quite interesting or insightful or inspiring in some way or another.

• Be Too Serious.

This is a speech or presentation assignment in college. It’s for a grade. It’s not a plea to the UN. Have a little perspective and try to enjoy the assignment. Make it fun even. But don’t make it more serious than it is. It’s an assignment. Get it done and go on.

• Touch Hair and Face

It is not only distracting, but it tells the audience the speaker is self-conscious and nervous and quite possibly a bore.

• Lose Focus of the Main Objective: to Pass the Class and Graduate.

What matters is getting that degree. Whatever it takes to get that degree. Even if speaking in front of others isn’t one’s cup of tea, focusing on the long-term goal of graduation is enough to get through it.

• Forget to Communicate With Body Language to a Make Point Stronger

A voice isn’t the speaker’s only tool when talking to a room full of people. Their body language – their posture, their arms, their gait, their eye and face gestures – can also reinforce a thought or an emotion, in turn really emphasizing something to the audience.

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