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Oral presentations

Oral academic presentations can have a range of structures and purposes, from seminar or tutorial presentations to conference papers. Being prepared and using effective presentation strategies will help you successfully communicate your ideas and information.

Prepare your presentation

Preparation is essential for a successful presentation.


You need to carefully analyse the assignment instructions and other information about your presentation. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the presentation topic and its purpose. Speak to your lecturer, tutor or supervisor if you need to clarify what’s expected of you.

Consider if the purpose is to be informative, instructional or persuasive.

  • In informative presentations, you need to be brief, clear, relevant and use logical sequencing.
  • In instructional presentations, your aim is to provide participants with a new skill. You need to cover the topic thoroughly and design activities to develop and apply new skills.
  • In persuasive presentations, you need to use detailed examination to convince the audience to accept your proposal or solution to a controversy/problem.


Your audience will affect the content and delivery of your presentation. Think about what your audience already knows about the topic, why they’re there and whether you need to adjust your tone or level of technical and formal language.


Prepare your presentation like you would any other assignment. This might include research, selecting and analysing information, coming up with examples, developing an argument and thinking carefully about the structure.

Make sure your content is relevant and you have a sound understanding of the subject matter.

Putting it together

Once you’ve worked out the content of your presentation, think about what equipment or audiovisual aids you might want to use.

You should also create notes or an outline you can refer to during your presentation. Your notes should be brief, and could be:

  • a printed copy of your slideshow
  • a list of bullet points
  • a ‘tree-diagram’ of the structure of the talk, with a keyword for each point
  • a note card for each part of your presentation.

Don’t read out a written script. Written language is harder for your audience to follow, it’s easier to lose your place, and you can’t keep good eye contact with the audience. Try to be more conversational and rely less on notes.


Practise your talk and check the timing. Work out how many minutes you want to spend on each part, and allow time for any necessary pauses. Try practising your presentation with a friend to find out if any parts are unclear, too fast or slow.

Finally, do some preparation to build your confidence and reduce nerves.


This material was developed by the Learning Hub (Academic Language and Learning), which offers workshops, face-to-face consultations and resources to support your learning. Find out more about how they can help you develop your communication, research and study skills.

See the handout on Oral presentations (pdf, 3.2MB).

Last updated: 18 October 2022

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