How to Prepare for an Oral Presentation So Your Nerves Don’t Take Over
Author: Kailey Guillemin
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Let’s face it - oral presentations in university are absolutely terrifying! You have to stand up in front of your peers, many that you’ve never said two words to, and engagingly deliver information on a topic. But that’s not all. You also have your professor sitting off to the side analyzing every word you say and how you present the facts. I’m shaking just thinking about it.

Oral presentations are not for everyone. If this scenario scares you, then keep on reading. We gathered some information on how to prepare for an oral presentation so your nerves don’t take over an embarrass you.


Know What You’re Doing

First of all, you need to know what you’re doing. That means you know what the assignment is asking you to do, you understand it, know who is grading you (professor vs student vs TA, they all grade differently), and what the purpose behind your presentation is supposed to be. Are you to inform the class on a specific topic, or are you trying to persuade them into agreeing with what you’re saying? The more you know about the assignment and what you’re supposed to be doing, the better off you’ll be.

Pick a Topic You Like

Nothing is worse than trying to research and give a presentation on a topic you find boring. If the professor assigned the topics and you’re the unlucky one who’s doing the hardest and most confusing topic, sorry my friend, I cannot save you.

However, if you lucked out, and the professor is letting you pick what your presentation will be about, choose something you find intriguing. You’ll be spending a lot of time researching and speaking about it, so why not talk about something you like?


Start Researching Early

The earlier you can start gathering information, the better. Once you step up in front of everyone, the class and professor will know if you did the assignment the night before. Save yourself some embarrassment and start preparing early. That means researching the topic until you’re a master in it and laying out a presentation that is intriguing, informative, and engaging.


Add In Your Personality

No one said oral presentations in university couldn’t be fun (unless your prof said so). Add in your personality to the presentation. If you like to crack jokes, then sneak a few in that make sense to your topic. Are you great at telling stories? Then channel your inner Morgan Freeman and have the class hanging off of every word you say.


Be Ready to Improvise

If you’re planning on typing out a script and reading it word for word, don’t. Presenters who simply read from the paper have a hard time keeping their audience's attention, especially if they’re bored university students.

Instead, make bullet notes on cue cards that you’re going to touch on. Write out the important details and allow yourself to fill in the gap along the way. This way, you won’t sound robotic reading from a paper, and you’ll be able to make the presentation more engaging.


Use Your Body

If you really want to keep the audience engaged, move around. Use your hands while you speak, you always see politicians and public speakers doing it. If you have a powerpoint presentation, physically point to what you’re talking about.

Those cue cards mentioned before, they come in handy when you want to walk around the front of the room. Plus, they’re small, so if you’re still nervous, your peers likely won’t see you shaking.


Prepare Yourself

So, you’ve picked the topic, done the research, wrote out your cue cards and snuck in a joke or two, does that mean you’re done? Not quite. It’s time for the rehearsal followed by a dress rehearsal.

Do a run through of your presentation in front of a mirror to see how you look. That is your rehearsal. Afterwards, do the presentation for someone, maybe a close friend or family member. This is the dress rehearsal where they can give you feedback and make the final adjustments before the big show.


When it is time for you to step up in front of the class and give your presentation, own the stage. By that point, you’ll have done all the preparation needed to comfortably and confidently give your presentation. Look at the audience, speak loudly and clearly, and be confident in what you’re saying.

What other things do you do to help prepare yourself for an oral presentation?

About author:
Kailey Guillemin

Kailey graduated with a degree in Journalism and Religious Studies from the University of Regina, Saskatchewan. Now she lives a double life in Manitoba – writer by day and dance teacher by night. When she’s not at her computer, you’ll find her curled up with a glass of red wine and knitting, or obsessively taking photos of her puppy.🐶🐾

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