Academic Presentation Skills

  About a week ago, I took part in a seminar on academic writing and presentation. It is near to the end now and here is some memo about presentation skills that I’ve learned.

Eyes, Body, Voice

  • Eye contact

  Eye contact is very important in a presentation as it makes the audience feel involved and make you look confident. BUT, it is awkward to STARE at people as well as not making eye contact at all (though staring is better than totally neglecting).

   Eye contact should last about 2-3 seconds. And remember to make eye contact with everyone equally. Too much eye contact with VIPs and too little with non-active listeners will make everybody uncomfortable. It is like serving tea to your guests, be fair and balanced when pouring tea to their cups. Follow random patterns when look at the audience (X or Z patterns).

  • Gestures

  Body language gives images all the time. Depending on what the topic is and who the audience are, appropriate gestures can be different.

  In the case of academic presentation, looking professional is the image that should be sent. Relax and clear gestures are expected.

–First, put your hands aside your body when no gesture is needed. Do NOT lock your hands because that makes you look less confident and nervous. Also do not put your hands behind you or in the pockets because to show your hands in front of people, which means you have nothing to hide, is very important.
–Second, while doing gestures, do NOT do it in the way that closes your body but in the way that opens your body.
–Third, do NOT do it too much. You don’t want look stupid or childish in an academic presentation.

  • Be Loud and Clear

  There are so many tips for voice control in a presentation, but I will only focus on points that I’m not good at.
  Pitch, press, pace and pause are the most important things to remember for non-native speakers. Rise the intonation at the beginning of a sentence and drop it at the end of a sentence. Oriental languages sound flat while Anglo-Saxon languages have fierce up and down pitch variation. To sound like a native English speaker, adding changes to the intonation is a key point.

–Pause, sometimes give power to your sentence. A pause of a couple of seconds gives people time to think and also makes you look more organized.
–Pace, could pass the most important part of your information to the audience. Slow down when it comes to some important numbers or key words. A little bit faster speed is allowed when you are talking about background information.
–Press, easy to understand, is a good tool to show people your points.

  Well, that’s all. It’s easy to talk but difficult to do it. Just keep practicing!


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