The skill of speaking and making a presentation is both an art form and a skill that can be learned. However, the second part, i.e. learning how to speak, is more important than the first (the art form, which seems to imply you have an innate talent for speaking). The good news is that like any other skill, making a presentation can be improved just by practicing.
I am pretty sure that every (master) thesis will finish with its defense (my last minute recommendations) and that will require you to give a small presentation.
This video is an interesting talk from Patrick Winston on the topic:
Here are the main takeovers:
- Rules of Engagement: Both for the speaker and for the audience, staying away from their laptop and cellphone is crucial. We can do only one thing at a time. Distractions will lower the amount of concepts and information that you will be able to process. These devices are continually tempting us, but as a member of the audience, offer your full attention to the speaker. This is probably the best thing that you can do in order to profit from the talk.
- How to Start: Some speakers prefer begin their talk with a joke, some by giving the audience a promise of what they will benefit from the speech. I would focus on underlining the benefit that your audience may gain in listening to you.
- Four Sample Heuristics for your talk: (i) “Cycle around” your topic; (ii) build a fence around your idea in order to avoid confusion and make it more distinguishable from other ideas; (iii) use “verbal punctuation” to help people get back to the talk; (iv) ask questions that are not obvious nor too hard.
- The Tools: Time and place. You should favor late in the morning. The ideal place is a well lit too that is neither too crowded nor to empty. Inspect the location where you will be speaking beforehand if you have the chance
- The Tools: Boards, props, and slides. These tools have features that can help your communication and make your talk more interesting and dynamic. Slides deserve a bit more attention; and here, there are a few pointers: (i) Don’t use too many words; (ii) having a colorful power point slide background is useless; (iii) stay physically close to the slides; (iv) 40-50 is the reasonable size for the fonts in the slides; (v) avoid (laser) pointers unless is strictly needed; (vi) make sure your content is digestible and not too complex or otherwise heavy.
- Informing: Promise, Inspiration, How To Think. A talk should be finetuned for the audience that you have in front of you. However two important and evergreen ingredients are (i) “passion” when delivering your message and (ii) storytelling for framing your message.
- Persuading: Oral Exams, Job Talks, Becoming Famous. Focus on showing what you have done and present your vision in 5 minutes. As for the rest, watch the talk above ;-). Making sure your presentations includes a symbol (like a logo), a slogan, and a surprise (like overdelivering on your promise you made at the beginning of your talk), can all help in delivering your message effectively. Make sure you use all these elements properly and glue them onto your story.
- How to Stop: Final Slide, Final Words. Instead of a general summary, focus on your contribution to the big picture.
- Final Words: Joke, Thank You, Examples. In the end, the setting changes. Show your appreciation for the audience in a more unique and creative way than just blurting out a “thank you” at the end. Why not ending with a joke?
This article (The Art and the Skill of Speaking and Making a Presentation) is part of the miniseries on how to write a good thesis, you can see the full list of posts on the following links: