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January 15, 2016

Presenting in Class

In some course types, such as seminars, we will ask you to introduce a text, an aspect, a theory, or a problem in the form of a presentation, either alone or in a team. Although it can be quite refreshing when someone else stands in front of a class, evaluations show that student presentations are often perceived as boring or unhelpful. Need tips for your next presentation?

Tips for a Successful Presentation

Technical issues

·         If you send me a document, make sure to use RTF (rich text format), DOC, DOCX (MS Word), or PDF files. Many computers at the FAU will not be able to read ODT and other Open Office formats.

·         If you use PowerPoint, make sure to embed all fonts (option in the "save as" menu). Print your presentation as a PDF file with a virtual printer such as FreePDF, just in case the file causes a compatibility issue.

·         If you want to plug in your own laptop, make sure you bring a cable to connect your laptop to the beamer. MAC users will need an adaptor, but it usually works fine.

·         Time limit: rehearse your presentation at home to make sure you do not exceed your time limit.


Presentation Tips: (not every tip can be applied to any topic!)

·         Open with a strong introduction. Your first couple of lines must captivate your audience.

·         The key to making your audience actually listen to your presentation is originality. Think outside the box!

·         Make use of the functions PowerPoint has to offer instead of only using it as a "slide projector". Use few bullet points. Don't burden your slides with too much text.

·         Do not use "nervous", patterned backgrounds. Work with clear contrasts.

·         Anyway, why always use PowerPoint? Try alternatives such as Haiku Deck, Keynote, Google Drive, Projeqt, Prezi or Sozi. Sozi is free for everyone, but you need a bit more technical know-how than with Prezi. Prezi has a free licence (EduEnjoy) for students who register with their university e-mail address.

·         Build your presentation around a central metaphor. It will help your audience remember.

·         Use a demonstration or a prop (props should be easy to handle)

·         Media, such as musical settings to poems, paintings, illustrations should have a purpose. Discuss, analyse, interpret the media you use.

·         Involve your audience. Ask a question and encourage the audience to find answers. Use an activating method. You can find ideas and a short description of activating methods at:

"Hochschul-Didaktik: Methodenbar". Universität Duisburg-Essen, 2012. 07.04.2014.


·         Change your point of view. Why not present about the historical background of the eighteenth century from the perspective of an eighteenth-century peasant, philosopher, woman writer?

·         Use a dramatic twist – surprise your audience.

·         Emphasize important points in your speech. Do not "act", but try not to sound too monotonous. Have complex quotes on your handout or your slides, so your audience can follow more easily.


Your Handout

·         One page, only important information

·         Font: not too small (no smaller than Arial 11 or Times 12)

·         Headlines and subdivisions that make sense

·         Bibliography with all your sources in MLA style

·         Bring a copy for everyone in the course.

·         Send me your handout by 12 p.m. on the Friday before your presentation for last-minute corrections.

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Need more tips for your studies?

Simone Broders, Academic Skills. An Introduction for English and American Studies (Fink/UTB, 2020).

An introduction to academic skills which leaves nothing to be desired – designed for students of English and American Studies, this companion will guide you through research, presentation, quoting and style, as well as the composition of essays and term papers. Acquiring these competences will not only equip you for the expectations of university studies but will also enhance your communication skills and promote your ability to think critically and independently.

The book is rounded off by strategies for exam preparation and plenty of practice exercises complete with solutions.

 Look inside

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