Presentation Skills – The ABC and XYZ

Let’s face it, if we are serious about our third level education there will come a time when we will be required to make presentations to either peers, tutors or faculty members during our time in university or Open Learning institutes. We may be required to make presentations during module workshops or deliver our findings from a group discussion, or maybe to show the findings of research we have carried out. Whatever way we look at it, presentation skills are a requirement throughout our third level studies.

When referring to the planning and preparation of presentations we generally refer to the three M’s; Method, Media, Materials as a guide in the planning process, so that all bases are covered so to speak. Method refers the type of presentation we are going to use, for example; will we be conducting a lecture, demonstration, discussion or playlet. Media refers to the type equipment that we might use during the presentation, which may include one or more of the following: Flipcharts, Overhead Projectors, Data Display Cameras and Computers with Microsoft PowerPoint to name but a few methods currently in use. Materials refers to the additional information we might give our audience, for example; we might issue handouts, CD ROMS, printouts of the PowerPoint Presentation or samples of our product. The subject of presentation skills can fill volumes of text in libraries and bookshops for the interested student, but that is not what we are about in this article.

To get started with presentation skills let us commence with the basics, which for ease of reference has two parts, ABC and XYZ. These two parts can act as a foundation on which to proceed with learning how to deliver professional presentations during our academic studies. The ABC and XYZ of Presentation were adapted from a series of lectures given by Professor Hubert McDermott of the National University of Ireland, Galway. ABC is a mnemonic for the phrase ‘Always Be Covered’ which refers to the planning and preparation we should undertake prior to the delivery of any presentation. The following are some practical suggestions we should incorporate into our preparation phase of our delivery:

Know the material well (Be an expert).

Practice our presentation with rehearsals (Emphasis on the first five minutes, this helps calm the initial nerves).

Prepare handouts.

Introduce ourselves (Short Bio).

XYZ is a mnemonic for the phrase ‘Examine Your Zipper’ which although funny, stresses the importance of leaving nothing to chance, starting with ourselves, the room and finally the equipment. The following are some suggestions to get us started:

Check that we are dressed correctly with trouser flies zipped up or missed or undone buttons exposing bras or underwear put right. (Ourselves)

Have you brought the laser pointer and markers for the flipchart? (The Equipment)

Check and test all electronic equipment in advance. I mean do a test run…. are the slides in order? are the pictures and links prepared? (Have you got a back-up plan such as a pre-prepared flipchart if the AV (Audio Visual) equipment goes south for the winter?). (The Equipment)

Check temperature and ventilation of the room (Is there enough seating? Are the emergency exits obstructed?). (The Room).

The list could be endless but I hope you get the idea of how important it is to be fully prepared for all presentations. Remember!!!! When you have prepared well for a presentation this will add to your confidence and in turn this confidence will shine through in your professional presentation. The best of luck with your future presentations.