I am on the penultimate year of my Forensic Science degree, and as a result have been encumbered with planning my dissertation piece and presenting a proposal to my peers about my chosen subject. Personally, my topic has very little to actually do with Forensic Science, being mostly focused on health research and pathophysiology (cardiovascular diseases, to be exact), but it has been covered in great detail by my lecturers and given approval by my course leader, so I can only assume that it is a fine topic to discuss.

Passion is obviously the most important element of any presentation or study topic; It motivates you to push yourself to your academic limits, to prove that you can do the subject justice. Despite my constant and continuing problems with procrastination, I really do believe that I am dedicating myself to the study of heart diseases with quite some gusto, already doubling the required number of references to add to my bibliography. The trick to it, for those who may be interested, is to pick a paper or journal article that you find readable and select your most valued information from it. Then, use the citations that the article writers used in your reference list too – I managed to add six whole articles to my list from a single two-page literature review on sex and gender in health research (sex of course referring to XX and XY chromosomes, not intercourse as many people have tried to joke about to my distaste).

Finally, came the time to actually present. The top tips for giving a great verbal presentation would be as follows:

  1. Make your visual aid (i.e. a powerpoint presentation) minimalistic but still appealing to look at. Good visuals would be clear diagrams and brief bullet point lists. DON’T WRITE OUT YOUR WHOLE SPEECH – Let the audience listen to you for the information or they will simply read it and ignore you.
  2. Practise, but don’t recite your speech word-for-word. The best way to avoid sounding like a robot, or reading everything from notes, is to have cue cards with very brief prompts (a couple of words per point) to help you remember the key issues, then speak about them in a more improvised way. Knowing lots about your topic is ideal for this to work.
  3. Use props – No, not costumes or a wooden sword (unless of course your presentation requires it, which is unlikely), but just small items to have to hand to keep yourself from flapping or shaking your arms too much. Cue cards work, but a single sheet of paper will make your shaking more obvious if you are a nervous public speaker. Try a heavier clipboard or book, and if you like a bottle or glass of water then go for that too! Personally I find a glass of water a good prop to keep your hand steady, and to offer you the chance to pause occasionally to have a drink (just a sip though!).
  4. Relax – Don’t rush through at a thousand words per minute as nobody will be able to keep up! A sip of water is great to help avoid this as you can take breaks when appropriate to drink. At the same time though, don’t be too slow as your audience is now asleep and uninterested in your well-planned speech. Take the time to practise and find the perfect middle-ground, and definitely get friends to listen in and offer advice.