Presentations: selecting a topic and allocating tasks

Nearly all University degrees require students to prepare and deliver presentations. How well they go depends largely on the time spent preparing them. Badly prepared presentations usually don’t go well and will only capture the attention of your audience for all the wrong reasons. Follow these five tips to make your presentations run as smoothly as possible.

Students planning togetherArrange an Initial Meeting

If you lecturer has left it up to you to find your group members, do this quickly. If they have been decided, arrange a meeting as soon as possible. Don’t leave this up to someone else, it might not happen. Try to set the meeting up following the lecture or seminar when everyone is usually free.

Elect a Leader and Select a Topic

It perhaps sounds like overkill but you need someone coordinating the presentation, else it won’t come together. Put yourself forward, especially if it’s not the kind of thing you’d normally do. If you think there’s someone stronger than you in the group, draw on them for support. As a group, brainstorm ideas for your topic. If you think you have a strong team, consider exploring something niche. If not, stick with something you know everybody will be able to grasp. Sometimes it’s a good idea to work backwards: check out the library to see if there are lots of books on one particular topic relevant to your presentation.

Devise a Basic Structure

This will change as you go along, but roughly map out the structure of your presentation. Decide now whether you’ll use PowerPoint to prompt each speaker, and if so agree the maximum number of slides each presenter can have. For a useful guide on using the latest version of Microsoft PowerPoint, visit: Agree that slides should only be used to prompt, to highlight quotes or statistics, and also agree that nobody should either read directly from PowerPoint or a pre-prepared script. Each student should be able to know their subject well enough to speak about it, for a set amount of time, using just a few words or a sentence to prompt them. Again, this takes practice.

Students working in a groupAllocate Time Slots and Tasks

If you have to deliver a 15 minute presentation and there’s five of you, that’s roughly three minutes each. Instead of allocating work, allocate a portion of time – some people speak more quickly than others. Having selected a topic, break it up into sub-topics, and allocate one for each member of the group, and arrange to meet up within a week or two. Set the time there are then. If you’re feeling strict, take everyone’s email or telephone number, or set up a facebook group where can you send reminders.

Do What’s Required

Prepare your own slot within the agreed time and, if you’re using it, create any PowerPoint slides you’ll need for your section. If you’re coordinating the effort, chase up your co-workers. However, do this gently. If you set up a facebook group, post something that implies you’re getting on with it, which may encourage others. If you think someone’s struggling, or slacking off, send them a message asking how it’s going. Also, if you’re coordinating the group and you’re each preparing your own PowerPoint slides, set a deadline for the day before your first practice meeting so you have time to draw the slides together in one presentation.


If you have to hand in your presentation, notes, powerpoint slides, etc, don’t forget to run them through first. is a free plagiarism checker that ensures your work is free from text copied off the internet.  It checks billions of online sources, electronic books and journals to ensure that your work is truly original.

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