The last stage is delivering the presentation. When delivering it is important that you speak to your slides or notes, rather than read from a prepared 'script.' Talking, rather than reading, is far less monotonous and allows for greater eye contact and interaction with the audience.
In presentations, a more informal use of language is acceptable than it would be for a written paper. For example, personal pronouns (I/we), contractions ('doesn't' instead of 'does not') and more colloquial language are quite acceptable. Similarly, backtracking and summarising your position as you talk are quite common in presentations.
It is also completely natural to feel nervous or anxious about the presentation. Just remember that the fear that something might go wrong, for example, that the technology will fail to work, and the fear of looking silly, of making a mistake, and/or not being able to answer questions are experienced by everyone having to speak in public. Some nervous energy is actually a good thing. The adrenalin makes you more alert and could be channelled into focusing on doing well. The best strategy for handling nervousness and keeping it under control is to be well prepared.
Practising is vital to ensuring good delivery because it will improve your presentation and give you confidence. It will also help you to become familiar with the pronunciation of difficult or foreign words and the visual aids and outline of the presentation. Most importantly it will help ensure that you are adhering to the time limit.
There are a number of ways to practice including asking a fellow student, friend or family member to listen and give feedback or simply practicing on your own in front of your computer or mirror. You may want to record yourself and watch back. This will give you excellent feedback on what you do well and what you need to improve upon.
Take a deep breath, try to remain calm and relaxed. You are prepared and in control. Look around, smile at the audience and focus on the following.
- Speaking loudly to project your voice to the whole room.
- Speaking slowly and emphasising key points.
- Speaking clearly. Speaking with an accent doesn't matter, but your audience needs to be able to comprehend what you are saying.
- Speaking to your audience and maintaining good eye contact. Be careful not to talk to your notes or stare at a single point in the room throughout your talk.
- Showing enthusiasm. If you're not excited about your own talk, you can't expect others to be interested.
- Portraying positive body language. Stand straight and relax your hands. Try not to slouch, pace up and down, etc., as this can be highly distracting for the audience.
Questions and comments can be highly valuable forms of feedback for your research. During a conference, for instance, you might learn of further research avenues, new research and forthcoming publications, and talk with people who can offer different perspectives on your research. If your presentation generates questions and discussions, this is often a positive sign, as it means that your work is of interest and relevance to your colleagues. It is a good idea to have a number of questions that you can pose to the audience to generate discussion.
Be prepared to answer questions not only at the end of your talk but during it, particularly during departmental seminars. If an audience member interrupts to ask a question, answer it politely. See the question in a positive light - it shows that the audience is listening and genuinely interested.
The concern that most presenters have is what to do if asked a question they can't answer. Don't panic and never try to bluff as the audience can see straight through it. Rather, acknowledge the value of the question in offering new avenues for your research, admit that you don't know the answer and turn the question back on the audience as there may be someone else who could answer it. It is unrealistic to expect that you will have expert knowledge on everything remotely related to your topic of research. However, there is a reasonable expectation that you will be able to answer more obvious questions and to support the claims that you make, including expanding upon the theoretical assumptions or empirical arguments that underlie your research.