The Five Phases of Giving a University Presentation

Presenting ideas and information is a core element of the professional world, and my university has helped me to learn and develop these skills. As part of the final year, we were to deliver a 50 minute workshop on a current issue within the events industry, from doing this I have identified 5 key phases I experienced during this task.

1. Group Selection

Our group was formed because of mutual interest in the topic. I chose ‘Event Legacy’ because England were hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup at the time, making for a great contemporary case study.

There are many challenges that come with group work, such as co-ordinating meetings, differing motivation levels and academic differences. I was particularly worried about these, as my group was a collection of people I hadn’t worked with before. As our workshop was the first one to be presented, there wasn’t much time to figure out if we had different working styles, which could have been problematic! Thankfully, everyone was  just as motivated as I was to deliver a strong workshop, especially within our tight time constraints.

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Image source via creative commons

2. Outlining and Dividing the Topic

We used our first meeting to create a session plan, outlining what we wanted to cover. An outline helped us create a focused guideline of relevant material needs to be included which we referred to when working individually to avoid accidental repetition. This certainly helped us efficiently choose who would research each area and ensuring our workshop had a strong structure.

The brief was to deliver an interactive workshop, so we also discussed the methods we would use. It’s been said that interaction is an effective way of understanding and retaining information, which inspired our chosen engagement methods of asking questions and a quiz at the end to ensure students understood and absorbed the workshop content.

3. Creating the Presentation

After we divided up the session plan we each researched our own individual parts and PowerPoint slides. We made sure our slides were clear and understandable to prevent losing audience interest. This allowed us to put all of the important information on the slides, but verbally elaborate details.

Audience remember what they see more than what they are told, so I looked to use a variety of visual aids when discussing the Rugby World Cup 2015. I incorporated videos to change the pace of the workshop and allow the audience a break from us talking, which was noted in our feedback as a good way of driving audience engagement. Looking back, I think our audience would have benefitted from an activity, rather that just sitting, listening and watching.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

The most important stage! We ran through our workshop as a group beforehand, allowing us to be familiar with what we intended to say so that we could confidently refer back to what each other had said to reiterate a point. Practicing increases familiarity with presentation speeches, which we found limited over-reliance on notes, improving our delivery. Personally, I take practicing tips from this Forbes article in order to confidently deliver a presentation. However, our large audience made me nervous and I ended up looking behind me more than them, which I would have to avoid doing in the future. Our practicing led to us receiving positive feedback on “slick” transitions between speakers and the overall “well rehearsed” nature of the workshop.

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Image Source via Creative Commons

5. Delivery

We took on board the 7 rules of delivery such as talking directly at the audience not reading notes (except for me looking at the board a bit). Based on qualitative feedback from our lecturers we had strong presentation skills and managed to maintain our very large audience’s attention for the full 50 minutes. We  engaged with our audience, encouraging their involvement, however, they were hesitant, and instead of encouraging further we moved on, lessening overall student interaction. Scott Berkun says that a good workshop has low numbers, which could explain the reluctance to participate, as the sheer amount of people Q&A style of interaction gave the workshop a lecture atmosphere where interaction is less.

I think our workshop was delivered well, but we could have reduced the amount of content on explaining legacies. We could have also incorporated different ways of student interaction, such as having the students break into groups for activities or games where they have to apply the information we gave, to try to remove the ‘lecture’ atmosphere that we had created.

Whilst the workshop wasn’t perfect, I further developed my group work and presentation skills, which could be adapted to working in a professional setting where I’m delivering an event rather than a workshop. I think that university is a great way to practice and strengthen the skills I will need when I move further into my events career.  Delivering this workshop taught me to consider the audience’s experience of a presentation, and in the future, if I’m ever pitching event ideas, I’ll be thinking about how I want my audience to react to what I’m presenting and hope to spark inspiration, rather than them just listening. 

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