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By Francesca Miles
20 February 2017

Do you have to present your research but you're nervous about speaking in front of so many people? Even at undergraduate level, you have to give presentations on your work. Public speaking and presenting difficult ideas to an audience is a major part of being successful in both academia and professional life; I hope my tips will help you grow your own skills in this area.

Francesca Miles dancing

I was one of the four students from the Dance Department that presented at British Conference of Undergraduate Research last year and it was such a great opportunity! I'm a passionate hip-hop dancer and I presented my research on Hip-Hop Dance Theatre in the UK. Presenting wasn't as nerve-wracking as you'd expect, as we were in small seminar rooms rather than a huge auditorium. All of the other attendees were respectful and friendly, and seemed genuinely interested in everyone's research. This atmosphere made it easier to present. Overall, it was just lovely to spend two days surrounded by amazing people all offering their contribution to academia.

 

Tip One – Relax

Try to relax and not be too nervous. While some nerves are good, if you worry too much about how you'll come across you'll be thinking of that more than what you are actually saying! Most audiences, especially in academia, will be genuinely interested in what you have to say, and this leads me to my next tip.

Tip Two – Be confident

This is your research; you know the subject matter, be confident in what you are saying. If you find it interesting, and show that interest when you are talking about it, you will help your audience to feel the same way as you, and therefore enjoy your presentation. Don't be afraid of letting your geeky side come out a bit! If you have to prepare an abstract, don't worry too much if it doesn't summarise perfectly what you end up writing about. I found out that as I worked on my project, my ideas changed even during the last month or so of writing.

Tip Three – Be creative with your presentation

Depending on the size of your audience and your topic you could create a poster to showcase your results, a video or an infographic. Think differently - it will help to set you apart.
When I presented my talk, I avoided using PowerPoint and presented from my notes, because this helped me to better connect with the audience. It worked well and I was able to speak clearly and confidently without relying on a PowerPoint.

Tip Four – Keep it simple

Remember, many of the people in the audience may not know anything about what you are presenting, so it pays to keep it simple. Make sure that you explain ideas, and use language that is easy to understand. If you are happy for people to contact you after the presentation, provide your details at the end so those looking for more information can get it.

Tip Five – Network

A conference is the perfect opportunity to connect with others in the same field as you. We were able to meet and chat with many different people - as a group we befriended several others throughout the first day and at the conference dinner. Some of my friends even found people to potentially work with on their projects going forward!

Good luck!

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