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Study Skills: Presentations

This guide offers learning strategies, study skills, and resources to support student academic success.



Presentations are a common educational tool that develop essential skills, enhance understanding, and prepare students for professional success. They foster active engagement, critical thinking, and effective communication, making them an important component of your education. For many students, however, presentations are challenging, usually due to psychological and social factors, such as the anxiety accompanied by public speaking and the inherent pressure to perform.  This LibGuide offers a number of practical tips to help plan, create, and develop your presentations skills and manage feelings of stress. Also included is an overview of how to create PowerPoint presentations.

Why Presentations?

  • Develops communication skills
  • Enhances understanding of course content
  • Builds confidence
  • Improves organizational abilities
  • Prepares learner for employment
  • Encourages engagement and interaction

“No one can remember more than three points.”
– Philip Crosby (Author)

 “There are always three speeches.... the one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”
– Dale Carnegie (Writer)

Components of Presentations

Creating and delivering an effective presentation involves several key components, each requiring careful attention and preparation. These components include planning, research, speaking points, design, practice, and delivery.


  • Define objectives: Determine the purpose of your presentation. Are you informing, persuading, or entertaining your audience? Set clear goals for what you want your audience to learn. Be sure you are always considering the assignment rubric as you plan your presentation. 
  • Understand your audience: Consider who your audience is and what they already know about your topic. Consider your content to meet their needs, interests, and level of understanding.
  • Structure your presentation:  Create an outline with a clear introduction, body and conclusion. Organize your main ideas logically and ensure each point supports your overall objective. Plan for transitions between each section to ensure the presentation has a smooth, logical flow.
  • Create a timeline: Assign a time to each section of your presentation. Ensure you have enough time to cover all points without rushing or exceeding your allotted time (consult the assignment rubric).


  • Gather information: Conduct thorough research using reliable sources to gather accurate and relevant information.  Take notes and organize your research to easily reference it while creating your presentation.
  • Analyze and synthesize: Assess the information you’ve gathered and determine how it supports your main objectives. Synthesize the information into key points and supporting details that are easy to understand and remember.
    • Tip: You may want to write out your entire script to start. Writing out your script forces you to think through every detail of your presentation, increasing your overall preparedness.  Knowing exactly what you will say can boost your confidence, especially if you are anxious about public speaking. You can then bold or highlight key ideas/concepts that you can focus on during your rehearsals, so that you are better prepared for the real thing. This approach will aid you to avoid reading word-for-word. Another option is using bullet points to guide you while still maintaining the benefits of thorough preparation.


  • Visual aids and materials:  Decide how you want to display your script, notes, or cues.  You may choose to create cue cards that outline the key ideas/points of your presentation.  You may, instead, choose to add notes into your PowerPoint slide deck.   There are advantages and disadvantages to each option, so test them out and see what works best for you. Be sure to also consider the types of visual aids (e.g., handouts, charts, videos) that will enhance your presentation.  Prepare these materials to complement and reinforce your key points. Make sure to rehearse several times with all your visual aids and materials.


  • Rehearse: Practice delivering your presentation multiple times to build familiarity and confidence. Time yourself to ensure you stay within the allotted time and adjust as needed. Consider rehearsing section by section and timing each to improve your ability to deliver each component of your presentation. You may start by reading your entire prepared script several times.  As you become more familiar with the content you could move to using the key points/ideas that you have bolded (see above) to prompt your memory so you do not have to read work-for-word. When rehearsing, try to practice looking up and moving your gaze around the room, as if you were looking directly at your audience.  The more you rehearse, the more familiar (and confident) you will become with your material and your ability to look up during the presentation will increase.   Try to simulate the actual presentation setting (does the room have a lectern, microphone etc.?). If so, create a practice environment where you have your notes set up as if they were on the lectern (if using cue cards) and moderate your voice to the size of the space. 
  • Rehearse delivery:  Focus on your voice, including volume, pace, and intonation, to ensure you are clear and engaging.  Practice body language, such as eye contact, gestures, and movement, to enhance your message and connect with the audience. Be sure to practice using your visual aids and other materials so you are smooth and confident with things like transitions. 
  • Seek feedback: Present to friends, family, or classmates and ask for constructive feedback on content, clarity, and delivery. Consider filming a rehearsal and review for areas of improvement. 


  • Start strong: Begin with a compelling opening to grab your audience’s attention, such as a story, quote, or interesting fact. Clearly state the purpose and objectives of your presentation.
  • Engage audience: Keep good eye contact with your audience.  Try not to simply read off your script, nor look at the same people. Rather, vary your gaze across the audience.  Speak clearly and at a volume so the entire audience can hear you.  Be sure to maintain a moderate pace.  Stay focused on your main points and avoid going off on tangents.
  • Conclude effectively:  Summarize your main points and reinforce the key takeaways. End with a strong closing statement, such as a call to action, memorable quote, or thought-provoking question. Invite questions and be prepared to answer them confidently and concisely.


  • Know your presentation (well!):  Ensure you understand your content deeply. The more familiar you are with your material, the more confident you will feel.
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse: Try to get to a point where you know much of the script, key ideas, and/or bullet points by heart. 
  • Presentation space: Visit the venue in advance (see if you can do a dry run) and be sure to test any equipment in advance.
  • Water and Kleenex: In case you get a dry throat or a runny nose, be prepared!
  • Visualize success: Imagine yourself delivering a successful presentation. Visualize the audience reacting positively to boost your confidence.
  • Stay grounded: Practice deep breathing or other relaxation techniques to calm your nerves before and during the presentation. Keep a positive mindset and remind yourself of your preparation and knowledge.
  • Exercise: Moderate to vigorous exercise plays a key role in managing anxiety and nerves and increasing focus.  Consider a brisk walk, jog, or bike ride in the hour leading up to the presentation. 
  • Slow down: Be aware of your pace and eye contact.  If you are nervous, go slow and look for friendly faces to support good eye contact. 

PowerPoint Presentation Planning and Design


Designing a PowerPoint slide deck for a presentation requires careful planning and attention to detail to ensure that the content is clear, engaging, and informative. Below are some key considerations and tips.


Outline your presentation:  Create an introductory slide that includes the presentation title, your name, the class and date. Next, build an agenda or objectives slide that outlines the main points of your presentation.  Lay out your content logically with clear headings for each slide.  Include a summary slide as well as one for questions.  If you reference third party sources, be sure to create a 'references' slide using the required style (e.g. APA or MLA) for the assignment. Reminder: consult the assignment rubric to ensure you are clear about the PowerPoint and reference expectations. 

Be clear and concise: Limit the amount of text on each slide and use bullet points as much as possible.  Ideally you should have no more than 30 words per slide. Highlight key points and keep each slide focused on one or two ideas.

Visuals and multimedia: Include images, graphs, charts, and videos to illustrate your points and make the content more engaging. Ensure each adds value to your presentation and helps to clarify your argument. 


Template and color: Pick a simple, professional design that doesn’t distract from the content. Use a consistent theme, layout and color scheme that contrasts well, making text easy to read against the background. 

Font: Use a consistent (24-point), readable (sans-serif) font for body text.  Ensure heading sizes are slightly larger and are consistently placed on each slide.

Transitions and numbering: Minimize the use of animations and transitions to emphasize key points. Number the slides to help you and your audience keep track of where you are in the presentation.

Important: Proofread your slides for spelling and grammatical errors.  Be sure to practice your presentation using the slide deck you have created, ensuring smooth transitions and a logical flow.


Ensure your slides are accessible to all audience members, including those with visual or hearing impairments.


Create a backup copy of your presentation on a USB drive or in the cloud in case you experience technical issues. 

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Citing in an Oral Presentation or Podcast