How To: Absolutely “Kill” a Presentation


So your prof assigned a presentation and you’re tired of Googling presentation tips. You’ve come to the right place, grasshopper.

November is my least favourite month—university students are loaded with tests, quizzes, midterms, assignments, essays, and, yes, presentations! As a third-year student in CCIT, English, and French, I’ve been through my fair share of presentations and have about three this month, too. Throughout my journey, I’ve picked up three all-encompassing tips on turning your daunting presentation into a breeze.

Read on, and the next time your prof says “presentation”, you’ll be volunteering to go first.

There are two components to any presentation: the verbal and the visual. My usual method is to create the verbal part first, then decide the visual part.

                       1.  Ooh, Kill ’Em: Verbally

The key to the verbal aspect of your presentation is simplicity. The verbal part of your presentation shows how well you know your topic in terms of how well you can explain it. If your topic is complicated, divide it into sections.

Tell your audience what section of the topic you’re about to talk about and, briefly, why it’s important. You don’t want to confuse your audience with complicated jargon (Google: “special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand”). Define difficult words and break your topic down to its simplest terms.

Ensure eye contact with your audience (or random eye-level wall corners), a clear voice, and a smile now and again. Use cue cards with maximum three points on each card. Sometimes, I only write a sentence per card. Speak with passion—if you sound interested, your audience will be too.

                        2.  Ooh, Kill ’Em: Visually

The key to the visual aspect of your presentation is also simplicity. You’ve probably heard the phrase “death by PowerPoint”—I know I have. But PowerPoint is not a “deadly” visual as long as you keep your slides simple.

With any visual you choose (skits? Prezi? PowerPoint? Posters? Hand gestures?), take the main point of your presentation and make it explicit. Save the text for talking points; the visuals are your clarity tools. Keep a two-colour minimum on your visuals, and minimize text to stress only the main points of your topic to your audience. You can limit yourself to one point, or one word, or one picture per slide on a PowerPoint, for example.

And remember, a presentation is not just an assignment worth marks for a class.

I mean, that’s one way to think of it. But a presentation is literally anything that you present, or anything that you show other people.

You present yourself to the world every day through how you dress, how you speak, what you say, and even how you walk. Store branding presents a store to consumers. The Internet presents information to people with Internet access. Any situation where communication is happening is essentially a presentation.

I like to think of communication with a simple goal in mind: what do I want to get across? What’s the point?

The underlying component of your presentation once you figure out your goal is creativity.

                         3.  Ooh, Kill ’Em: Creatively

Even the key to the creative aspect of your presentation is simplicity: using a simple, straightforward design. How are you going to get your point across to a lecture hall full of your peers, to a potential employer in an interview, or to the date that you have tonight?

The best part about presentations is that you get to be creative: papers and tests have formats, but for the most part, presentations don’t. You can use the space in the room, your peers’ participation, your group members if you have any, posters, skits, props, anything! For the brief time that you present, you are in complete control—how will you use it?

Presentation is an art—get creative!