What is it?

A successful presentation requires an ability to synthesise several distinct skills: speaking in public confidently; strong organisational skills in order to plan and structure a presentation; and a certain amount of creativity, combined with technical know-how, in order to produce effective visual aids in PowerPoint or another presentation software package. In a successful presentation, you will demonstrate each of these skills in a confident and professional manner.

The thought of delivering a presentation in front of an audience often causes anxiety. Overcoming nervousness is not easy; the trick is to control your emotions by appearing confident even if you are not. Anxiety can be allayed through carefully planning and by rehearsing your presentation. Careful and thorough preparation will boost your confidence; as you begin to speak, you can relax in the knowledge that you have a clear overview of what you are going to say.

Presentations are often used in higher education as a form of assessment. Usually, each of the skills outlined above is assessed separately, as well as your overall performance. But developing presentation skills is not only important for achieving success in these assessments; they are also essential to your chances of pursuing your chosen career path successfully, for presentations often form part of the recruitment process in job interviews. Practising these skills at university will enable you to develop effective spoken communication skills. Devising and structuring the content of your presentation will also enhance your analytical ability as well as your ability to be creative and innovative.


Top Tips for Effective Presentations

This checklist highlights many of the skills required to deliver a successful presentation.

Presentation skills: how to improve your presentations​

A useful instructional video highlighting some good practices associated with successful presentation skills.


Some advice on delivering a presentation successfully may be found in our guides on public speaking and creating effective slides.

The following items are particularly useful if you have less experience of delivering presentations:

Shephard, K. (2005) Presenting at Conferences, Seminars and Meetings. London: Sage

Offering practical step-by-step hints of a variety of presentation scenarios, this book is very useful if you are keen to make the most of your presentation skills, both in university and beyond. With good sections on speaking at conferences and seminars, this book will be particularly useful to undergraduates, post-graduates and educational professionals alike.

van Emden, J. and Becker, L. (2004) Presentation Skills for Students. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

This short book focuses strongly on the act of presentation: speaking skills, body language and audience interaction are all covered. Lots of tips and tricks are included for overcoming nerves and fluster and dealing with the unexpected. The approach is very student-centred.

Other useful items include:

Murphy, B. (1995) Presentations for Professional Communicators. London: Batsford

Reynolds, G. (2008) Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. Berkeley, CA: New Riders

McMillan, K. and Weyers, J. (2006) The Smarter Student: Skills & Strategies for Success at University. Harlow: Pearson

Cox, J. and Lambert, J. (2010) Microsoft PowerPoint 2010: Step by Step. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press