Good speeches

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Few students like them, and for some they are a real nightmare: we’re talking about speeches. Unfortunately, they are a common form of exam, so you can’t avoid them. You don’t have to, because with our tricks, papers lose their terror.

Overview of this article:

Malicious tongues claim that lecturers only assign papers because it saves them work. Finally, the students then take over the preparation of the respective topic. And the presentations can also serve as the basis for the grade. Whether true or not, the fact is that as a speaker you will be in the role of a teacher. It is your task to explain a fact to the audience – your fellow students – and to teach them something new. At the same time, you are in an exam situation, where you have to convince your lecturer about you. You will only succeed in both if you avoid all sources of error right from the start.

Preparation for advanced students

It should be common knowledge that in a presentation, the preparation is at least as important as the presentation itself. But precisely because this supposedly obvious point is all too easily checked off, a lot often goes wrong in the preparation!

Time for literature research, for example – whether in databases, on the Internet or in the library, depending on the subject and topic – will probably have been set aside anyway: But have you also considered that the very books you need may not be available immediately?? For example, they may be on loan or need to be ordered through interlibrary loan. Therefore, in addition to the pure research time, also plan for the often weeks-long waiting time for books, so that you are not already under pressure at the beginning of your preparations.

Once you finally have the coveted books on the table, it’s time to narrow down the topic – because very few subjects can be covered exhaustively in a 30-minute presentation. If you are unsure about the focus of your presentation and would like to ask your lecturer for advice, you will run into the next problem: Consultation appointments are rare and the next available appointment in three weeks might already be too late for you. Therefore, secure a place in the office hour early and plan your preparation in such a way that you can ask as specific questions as possible on that day.

Then it’s finally time for the conception of the actual lecture. To do this, you create an outline, which you supplement with the corresponding content. If possible, write down only key points, then you do not run the risk of reading out your presentation instead of speaking freely. In addition, you should keep in mind that after all the preparatory work you will be much more deeply immersed than your fellow students will be on the day of the presentation. Consider exactly how much previous knowledge you can assume and where you still have to provide explanations. Perhaps there are also links to a previous presentation that are suitable as a transition?

No text deserts and showmanship

For your PowerPoint presentation you should choose a simple design and use effects sparingly. Many lecturers don’t care for such gimmicks anyway – and your audience probably doesn’t either. This compilation of the worst PowerPoint sins by comedian Don McMillan shows: When in doubt, less is always more in presentations.

However, it is quite welcome if you show slides only at certain points of your presentation and otherwise show a white or black screen. This way all attention is on what is being said. Familiarize yourself with the keyboard shortcuts in advance.

Don’t forget that the success of your presentation also depends on the technology you use. Therefore, use the lead time to observe what could go wrong technically and be prepared for it. It would be fatal, for example, to rely solely on PowerPoint for a presentation on a July afternoon and in a room that cannot be darkened, and to keep the handout accordingly slim. Even more so, because even connecting your laptop to the beamer can become an obstacle. Getting adapters is just as much a part of preparing a presentation as a quick compatibility check the week before. A little expert tip: If all else fails, you’ll be glad to have your PowerPoint file with you as PDF slides. They will always be displayed correctly – even on a borrowed laptop – and save you a lot of sweat and trouble in case of emergency.

In addition to PowerPoint, a flipchart or the good old blackboard are ideal, for example for a sketch or a short brainstorming session in the plenum. Such a change between different media increases the attention of the audience, and you are prepared for the case that the technology breaks down.

Why a handout??

Why a handout??

The PowerPoint slides are ready, now just copy them into a text document and you have a handout? While this is how many students do it, it’s not the right way to do it. The handout should only contain the most important content of the topic, but at the same time be detailed enough to serve as a reminder. This is especially important if your fellow students have to use it to prepare for exams. Therefore, never copy the key points from your slides one by one, but check where you have to shorten or add something. Nevertheless, the structure of the handout should of course be the same as that of the lecture, otherwise the audience will be confused.

Whether it’s better to hand out the handout before or after the presentation is debatable – both have advantages and disadvantages: If your fellow students get it at the beginning, they can read along and take notes there. But you also run the risk of distracting them from your presentation. If you hand out the handout after the presentation, you lose the direct connection between the presentation and the handout.

Embarrassing, but it has happened before: Handouts where the printer ran out of ink halay through. To avoid such a situation, print on a day when you can buy a new cartridge or go to the copy store if necessary.

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