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Giving a presentation

Last modified on 21-07-2022 15:51
If you’re studying at university you will regularly have to give a presentation on the course material or on the results of your own research. How do you do this?
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What constitutes a presentation?

A good presentation comprises of 2 components. First there’s the content-related part: what information do you want to convey to the listener? Then there’s the way in which you convey the message: how do you get your message across? This isn’t about the words that you use, it’s about your body language, your demeanour and the way you use your voice. 

Before you give your presentation:

  • Find out about your audience. Try to understand how your target group might see things.
  • Put yourself in their position. Try to think what you would want to know about this topic. 
  • Think carefully about the structure of your presentation.
  • Make sure there is adequate visual support.

During your presentation:

  • Maintain good contact with your audience: look them in the eye.
  • Check from time to time that your message is coming across effectively.


Think carefully about the assignment. Your lecturer will undoubtedly have provided all kinds of practical information in your reader or on Canvas around what is expected of you or what the purpose of the assignment is. Make sure you read this before you start work on your presentation.


Plan carefully in advance what you want to say. Giving an oral presentation is a totally different thing from simply reading out your written report. You need to come up with a structure with an introduction, a key message and a conclusion. Make a clear distinction between main issues and secondary issues and ask yourself whether the order in which the information is being presented is logical and easy to follow. And always keep your audience in mind: what do they already know about this topic?


You engage with your audience mainly through the way you present and substantiate your story. Generally speaking, the gist of your story will be easier to follow if there is some variation between visual and auditory elements. An attention-grabbing start, such as a provocative statement or a striking example, will ensure that your audience is gripped from the outset. Make sure, however, that you keep the aim of your presentation in mind.


Many people find the idea of having to talk to an audience stressful and, as a result, get nervous or distracted before or during their presentation. Generally speaking, your audience won’t realise that this is the case and you will be the only one who knows. Preparing yourself well, and in good time, can help calm your nerves. Practise the presentation in advance with your coursemates or housemates. That way you can hear how you sound when you give your presentation and you’ll also see how long your presentation actually lasts. In addition, you can often use a ‘cheat sheet’, but a PowerPoint can also provide you with the necessary reassurance. 

Training courses and workshops

The UvA provides additional support for various topics through information meetings, workshops, training courses and groups. You can learn more about these by clicking on training courses and workshops.