Skills for Learning

Presentations & Group Work

Overview

Presentations

Discover what makes a good presentation. Watch other people presenting and make a note of what they do well. Think about how they could improve and learn from their experience. When you plan your own presentation, focus on how to make it excellent. Think about what your audience needs to know, as well as considering your delivery style.

Group work

Develop your group working skills. Perform better at group assignments and make yourself more employable. Most students are nervous about group assignments; they can be challenging. Get ready with some plans, ideas and strategies before you start.

Planning your presentation

Structure your presentation to suit your content and any module assessment requirements. Most presenters choose a simple structure:

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Start by introducing yourself and the topic of your presentation. Explain in one or two sentences what you are going to cover.  Mention something about the topic to engage the audience. This is called ‘hooking’ your audience.

Example: 'Today, I am going to explain how student finance works and why it needs to change'.

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Decide what your main points need to be. Next, arrange the points in the order you want to present them. For an assessed presentation, follow your module assignment brief. Check you have included what is required to maximise marks.

Example: 'The main features of our student finance system are…. The main problems with this system are…. Possible solutions are…'.

Add detail and examples for each main point. Decide what your audience needs to know, and in how much detail. You must also fit the material into the time you have. Quotations are helpful, but only when they add to your meaning. Include sources for quotations and any other information you use from published sources. For example, you might want to include statistics, research data, authors’ viewpoints, or established theories. Check your assignment brief for the citing and referencing requirements for your presentation.  

Avoid jokes, as these can backfire or seem inappropriate.  A few topical references can add currency and interest.

Summarise what you have said. In other words, tell them what you have told them! This enables you to show that you have done what you intended.

Example: 'I have outlined the main features of student finance, the problems with X, Y and Z, and some possible ways forward...'.

Ask your audience if they have any questions and thank them for listening. If there are no questions, you could finish by asking and answering one yourself. This can avoid an awkward silence and help you appear polished, professional and in control.

Example: 'One common query about this topic is…', or 'When preparing this presentation, I wondered about…'.

Leave your audience with a positive impression. A clear and professional ending tells the audience when your presentation has finished.  Write a final sentence and memorise it. Remember to thank your listeners for their attention.

Watch some good presenters online

TED Talks: Thousands of speakers covering a huge range of topics.

University of Queensland Three Minute Theses: Competitors present their research in just three minutes.

You might want to evaluate presentations you have watched - or to review your own practice presentations. Download the Presentation Evaluation Form from our Resources & Worksheets to help you. 

Planning a group presentation

Group presentations can be challenging. Before you divide up the content, appoint one person as ‘editor’. This person will blend your contributions into one unified presentation. Choose someone who is good at synthesising information. 'Synthesising' means combining all the different elements and ideas together. The editor might need a design 'helper' to make the presentation slides look good. Be fair and give these people less research and content work.

Arrange one or two further meetings:

1. Meeting to discuss and agree on the editor’s work.

2. Meeting to practise the final version of the presentation as a group.

Presentation style and language

The style of your presentation is almost as important as what you say.  Tone of voice, facial expressions and body language all help the audience. Visual aids, such as PowerPoint, are important. Remember, though, that they will not do the work for you.

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Think about:

  • Your voice
  • Your eyes
  • Your posture

Your speaking voice needs to be clearer, calmer and slower than usual. Slowing down will affect the length of the presentation, so make sure you check timings.

Pick some friendly faces in the audience. Make eye contact with these people as you make your points as this will help your confidence. Use notes, but do not read from a script as this can seem unnatural. Bullet points on cards allow you to make eye contact as you speak. If you lose your place, sip some water, take a breath and carry on. 

Memorise your opening and closing sentences to make a good impression.

Poor posture can show your nerves. Inexperienced speakers might shuffle from one foot to the other. So, decide how you will stand and try to keep your legs still.

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Factors which might affect your presentation include:

  • Room size and acoustics
  • Seating and position of the audience
  • Presentation equipment, especially screen size
  • Direct sunlight from windows
  • Any open windows
  • Room temperature (too hot or too cold?)

If you can, check the room before your presentation. At the very least, ask about the equipment available so you can prepare appropriately.

It can help to visualise yourself giving the presentation. Imagine how you might feel as you stand up. If you think that you will be nervous, decide how to appear confident. In other words, fake it till you make it!

On the day, once you start, keep going. Expect a few latecomers and don’t let them put you off. Make eye contact with some of the other audience members and carry on.

Group presentation logistics

Make your group appear polished and professional. Decide beforehand where you will each stand and wait for your turn to speak. Your tutors will look for evidence of teamwork and good planning. Practice will help you to achieve this.

PowerPoint and other visual aids are useful, but do not over-rely on them. Most students have experienced ‘Death by PowerPoint’: where the presenter just reads out the slides. When this happens, the audience can lose interest. There is lots of advice online about making good slides. Here are a few pointers:

  • Use the design suggestions provided
  • A well-chosen image is powerful
  • Text on screen can help you, but might not interest your audience
  • Make everything big enough to see from the back of the room
  • If the detail is important, consider providing a handout
  • Take a few slides out – you probably have too many

Download the Create a Presentation with Powerpoint Booklet from our Resources & Worksheets to help you.

Poster presentations

Prepare for a poster presentation by considering the same factors as for a conventional presentation. Think about the audience, content and delivery.

The audience might be other students, researchers or even the general public. Aim to attract their interest. Make the content of your poster suitable for their level of knowledge and understanding.

Design a good poster:

  • Put the title at the top to attract attention
  • Start your content at the top left-hand corner
  • Use positioning and arrows to direct attention
  • Make the lettering large enough to be read at a short distance
  • Double-space text
  • Diagrams or illustrations should be as large as possible
  • Leave some space so your content is not crowded
  • Make the poster self-explanatory; aim to be clear

Download the Designing Posters with Publisher Booklet from our Resources & Worksheets to help you.

Delivering your poster presentation

Stand next to your poster so that your audience can see it. Point to relevant areas as you speak. Practise beforehand, keep to time and be prepared for questions. If you are presenting at an event, be sure to stay with your poster at the allocated time.

Plan and prepare for group work

Get yourself prepared for one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of your time as a student:

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Think about your assignment brief – what has your group been asked to produce? The brief will tell you how many marks are allocated for different aspects of the project. For example, there might be marks for how well your group works together. Usually, the final ‘product’ carries the most marks. This might take the form of a written report, a group presentation, or perhaps an artefact or design. In some cases, you could be asked to score the other students in your group.

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Group work is challenging. Certain issues are common to most student groups. Raise these at the start to give your group a better chance of success. Areas that can cause problems are:

  • Allocation of work
  • Ensuring work gets done
  • Communication

It is hard to take the lead in meetings, but you need a chairperson. You could suggest taking turns. Allocate tasks based on people’s strengths and what seems fair. Decide how you will make sure tasks get done. For example, you could create a shared spreadsheet or progress log. You might also decide to appoint one group member to check on progress. Then, arrange further meetings and agree on the methods your group will use to share information. Download the Group Meeting Record Worksheet from our Resources & Worksheets to help you with organising and planning meetings.

Ground rules can help avoid problems. Ground rules should include:

  • Organisation of group meetings
  • Group communication
  • Behaviour towards other group members 
  • How disagreements will be resolved
  • Obligations to get work done
  • What happens if someone is ill
  • When the module tutor might be involved

A written group contract or agreement can help. Download the Group Work Agreement from our Resources & Worksheets to help you. This example contract covers group behaviour and getting work done.

Successful group meetings

In each meeting, members of the group will need to take on the following roles:

  1. A chairperson to organise and run the meeting.
  2. A note-taker to record the discussion and agreed actions.

All group members share responsibility for the success of the discussion. You could use the ‘SMART’ method to agree on and record actions. Download the SMART Technique Worksheet from our Resources & Worksheets to help you.

‘SMART’ means that actions should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant/Realistic
  • Time-bound

Make sure the note-taker records who is doing each task. They should also note down exactly what each person will do and when. The most important question for all group members is probably: ‘When do we need this done by?’ This simple question reminds everyone about their obligations to complete work and meet deadlines.

Agree about your IT

Your group will need to:

  • Share work and other documents
  • Monitor progress on tasks
  • Arrange meetings

You might use official University IT software or other apps. Agree on what is easiest for everyone.

Example: you could use a WhatsApp group to arrange meetings, shared Word documents on the University filestore for a group report and a shared Excel spreadsheet for recording progress.

Activity