Tips for Student Presenters

  1. General Logistics
    • The 2019 Capstone Day is scheduled for Thursday, May 9, from 9:30am to 8:00pm. Presentations will be held in the larger campus classrooms, Humanities Auditorium, Balch Auditorium, and Williamson Gallery. The schedule includes four 1-hour sessions, separated by 15 minute breaks and a community lunch break from 12:00 – 1:30pm.
    • Please check to see when you are scheduled to present by viewing the Capstone Day program on the Scripps website or the printed program booklet. The online program should be posted by Monday, April 30th; student presenters will receive a hard copy on either May 2 or 3.
    • On Capstone Day, please make sure you check in with the Forum Clerk in the Humanities courtyard at the latest 15 minutes before the start of your session. Presenters remain in their session until all of the speakers have presented and the question time has ended. It is imperative that all sessions begin and end on time. Bear in mind that students participating in the B and D session time periods will have only 15 minutes to set up for their sessions. If you are using technology in your presentation, make sure you are ready on time so as to facilitate a smooth transition between sessions.
    • Be sure to notify friends and family regarding the location and time of your session. We look forward to seeing you and your family and friends on Capstone Day!
  2. Tips for Oral Presentations
    • Organization: Think about how people listen. You will want to frame your talk with a purposeful introduction and provide clear verbal signposts along the way.
    • Notes: Plan a notetaking system that will work for you when you are standing before an audience (with your knees shaking, your throat dry, and your eyes blurry). Some speakers work well from an outline on a pad of paper; some write their whole talk out and virtually memorize it; some work well from notecards.
    • An opener: Think hard about your first words. How will you pull your listeners together and set them up for the talk? Remember, they haven’t been thinking about the subject at all, so your first words will have to organize their thoughts as well as yours.
    • A conclusion: Think equally hard about a good way to wrap up your talk. What last words do you want to leave your audience with? If you have planned your conclusion carefully ahead of time, you will be able to retrieve it even if you become flustered in the middle of your talk.
    • Context: Remember that while you have been working on this project for months, your audience is new to the subject. Giving them context for your work will help them understand your presentation much more easily. Offering examples or asking the audience to think about similar experiences in their own lives can help provide context.
    • Time: Practice your talk aloud so you know you will stay within the time limit. The presentation should take about 12-13 minutes plus 2 min. for questions. Emphasize the most interesting aspects of your work.
    • Stance: Decide how you will use your body during the talk. Will you stand or sit? Are you comfortable using gestures to help you? Do you have any annoying or distracting mannerisms that you need to control?
    • Voice: Practice and experience will help you learn to control your voice. Are you speaking too softly? Too loudly? Mumbling? Are your words and sentences clearly enunciated, with clear beginnings and ends? Are you speaking too quickly or too slowly? Learn to project; your words need to reach your audience.
    • Interacting with the audience: Allow yourself to be aware of your audience. Look at them; talk to them. Warm them up. Some speakers ask questions of the audience, or ask them to think of something on their own. (“What is your earliest childhood memory?” “Have you ever had the following experience: …? “)
    • Visual aids: Many presentations require visual aids, especially as you move into the work world. Eventually, you will want to think about how visual aids can help make your point. You will need to learn to design effective slides and to handle equipment.
  3. Tips for PowerPoint Presentations
    • An effective slide has a single, readily identifiable principle concept. Focus on a few key points. Try different styles of presentation. Do an initial sketch, then do a rough layout to get a good idea of proportions and balance. At the final layout stage, ask a friend if the message is clear and if the important points stand out.
    • Avoid projecting slides that include only text. Slides that contain more than a few words per line cannot be read by the audience. Keep slides simple, with plenty of open space.
    • Do not present more than 10 slides in a 10 minute presentation: The verbal text and the slide material should support each other. Give the audience a moment to become orientated with each slide before continuing.
    • Check all technology: Make certain that whatever technology you may need for your presentation will be available – projectors, computers, whatever you need. Be sure you know how to use it, and that you are familiar with that particular setup for the room you are in. If possible, test everything in advance. Leave enough time for setup on the day of your presentation.

Frequently Asked Questions for Presenters

When is Capstone Day?

May 9, 2019 from 9:30am – 8:00pm at Scripps College.

How long should my presentation be?

Depends on your session: 15 minutes if there are 3 presenters, 12 minutes if there are 4, 10 minutes if there are 5. If you present in a poster session, you man your poster for the duration of the session (1 hour). If you are in a presentation or performance session, you remain for the entire time allotted the session.

How can I make my presentation lively and interesting?

Enthusiasm is very contagious, so show your own enthusiasm for your material. Be sure to talk about the aspect of your research or paper that lights you up the most. Your interest will spark your audience’s interest.

What other speaking points should I keep in mind?

Here are just a few, not in any particular order:

  1. Speak loudly enough to be comfortably heard.
  2. Use pauses effectively: for punctuation, to change your thought, for emphasis, to allow a distraction to pass.
  3. Use repetition: As a memory aid, to give interim summaries, to make key points clear.
  4. Repeat a key point from a different viewpoint to give more of your listeners access to understanding your point.
  5. Observe your audience to make sure you’re being understood.
  6. Use gestures.
  7. Keep your talk around the theme … don’t go off too far from it. Make sure your subpoints have a relationship to your theme.
  8. Looking at your audience helps you see if they’re following you and allows your audience to connect with you.
  9. Don’t just look at one person the whole time, nor constantly swivel your head like a pendulum.
  10. Place your notes in a way that allows you to easily look up to see your audience.
  11. Try to word your speech in a way that involves the audience, if that is appropriate. Use words such as “you” or “your” when appropriate, but don’t overdo it either.
  12. In speaking, use sense stress and modulation. Variety in modulation makes for an enjoyable listening experience.
  13. Use illustrations and/or examples when appropriate.
  14. Keep these simple.
  15. Use your conclusion to either summarize your argument (briefly) and/or rouse your audience to action, whatever is most appropriate. But don’t just end your presentation without giving the audience a clear idea of what needs to be done, happen, or how the information affects them.

How should the presenter dress?

Your manner of dress should dignify your presentation. Good personal appearance will contribute to your poise and confidence. When in doubt err on the side of dressing more conservatively.

Is it OK for people to leave between presentations?

With over 100 presentations scheduled for the day, many will want to see or hear particular presentations that are in different venues. Therefore it is to be expected that some people will be leaving or entering the room between, or even during, presentations.

Should I read my paper or should I present it?

A presentation with a lot of audience contact is always preferable. However, if your material is very complex or complicated, then by all means read it. However, be sure to practice a lot, perhaps in front of a mirror, before delivering it.

How large will my audience be?

Most sessions will be in large rooms, however it is impossible to predict how many will show up for each session. Our experience has been that between 10 and 50 people will attend most sessions.

How can I control my nervousness?

A few tips below:

  1. Get familiar with the room and equipment you might be using ahead of time.
  2. Practice several times, at least once in front of a friend or roommate, or in front of a mirror.
  3. Remember that your audience wants you to do well and are rooting for you. So try to relax as much as possible. Deep breaths and pausing often help if you start to feel overwhelmed during your presentation. (Don’t breathe out into a mike though!)