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Presentation Skills

11 July 13 -- jsuess

This June, Oxford ASPIRE teamed up with the Oxford Learning Institute to deliver two Presentation Skills Workshops as part of our Managing Museums workshop series for museum and cultural sector professionals. The workshops were facilitated by Rosemary Dearden. Rosemary is a Learning Associate for the Oxford Learning Institute and is part of the Bodleian Libraries Staff Development team.

Professor Paul Smith, Director of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, presenting at the University Museums Group Conference, March 2013.

The day began with introductions, followed by each delegate identifying one thing they would like to learn from the workshop and their worst fear about giving a presentation. This helped put the delegates at ease and brought the group together ahead of the theoretical work around presentations that followed.

The majority of the morning was then spent discussing the theory behind what makes a good presentation. Rosemary explained that there are three main components to creating a successful presentation, and focused on each in turn:

1.Presence: you and how you present yourself to the audience
2.Voice: how you use your voice to get the message across
3.Design and structure of the material you wish to convey.

The delegates were then given the practical task of creating a 5 minute presentation, so that there was an opportunity to implement all of the advice and guidance that had been imparted in the first half of the day. Participants were asked to come to the workshop with an idea in mind, so that the focus was on applying the preparation techniques learnt in the workshop.  The group set to work, and Rosemary encouraged the presenters to use a variety of techniques to plan out their presentation; some used spider diagrams while others poured ideas out onto post it notes to formulate the structure of their presentation.

Maurice Davies, Head of Policy and Communications, Museums Association, presenting at the University Museums Group Conference, March 2013.

During the afternoon, each participant had the chance to present and to be critiqued by Rosemary and the group. It was wonderful to see presentations on different topics, and how they incorporated tips and reflected discussions that took place in the morning. It was interesting to see that stance, voice and design were all considered, and each group member had adapted their material to acknowledge this.

Rosemary’s Top Tips were:

  • As part of your preparation, take time to consider important factors such as your audience, the amount of time allocated and the layout of the room.
  • Follow the Rule of Three to structure your presentation, with a defined introduction, main body, and conclusion.
  • Face your audience rather than fixing your gaze on your notes or the screen.
  • Pauses enable your audience to catch up with you, whilst allowing you time to compose yourself.
  • Warm up your voice with some voice exercises before you go on.
  • A useful but strong hand gesture is to count your main points on your fingers, as it gives you something to do with your hands and emphasises your ideas.
  • Engage your audience early on with an attention grabbing introduction.
  • Make it clear to those attending who you are, and outline what you will be covering in the presentation.
  • Your conclusion should be as strong as your introduction. Re-state your main ideas and points, whilst making sure not to introduce anything new to the audience. 

A really useful recommendation from Rosemary is Garr Reynold’s tips on presentation design.

This post was written by Ellena Smith, Oxford ASPIRE Assistant, who attended one of the Presentation Skills Workshops.

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