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Academic Presentation Skills and Tools

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How to look confident when you aren't feeling confident

Remember: your audience wants you to succeed. No one is plotting for your failure.

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Check out your classroom in advance

Familiarize yourself with the layout of the of the room. Where is the spot where you will be speaking from? Is there a podium? How are the desks or chairs arranged? Will you need audio-visual equipment (ie. laptop or a mac computer connector)? How do the lights turn on/off? Is there a chalk board or dry wipe board?

Practice your lecture beforehand

If possible, practice giving your lecture/speech in the room where you will be doing it. Practice your timing and record the amount of time for each portion of your lecture/speech on your speaker's notes to help you keep track of the pacing of your lecture/speech when you are doing it for real. Students’ questions and learning activities can take up to 50% more time than you may first think.

PRO TIP: See your lecture as your audience or students will see it and have a friend record your presentation practice. Use that recording to look for ways to streamline your presentation or find out if you have any verbal or non-verbal habits that can be corrected or minimized.

Bring water

Not only will the water quench a sudden dry throat, but it can also act as a prop. Sipping water is a good way to pause and formulate a response to a question. If you aren't sure what to do with your hands or your hand shake, holding a watch bottle can calm nerves.


Wear clothing that is professional and exudes confidence. Your clothes should be comfortable and loose enough so that you can move around. Check for potential wardrobe malfunctions.

Script vs Notes

As you work on your lecture or speech, you may start with a detailed script. It is a good idea to distil that script into an outline or lesson plan.

Your notes or lesson plan should be detailed enough to include key definitions, examples, analogies and any other detail that you think you might need some support if you get nervous in front of the room. 

Prepare for variations or technology fails

Have a back up plan incase the computer doesn't work or your PowerPoint slide doesn't open. Have markers with you, dry/wipe pens, and a way to deliver your presentation in a non-technology fashion.  This is not the time to wing it with no plan.

Talisman or special token

If you have a small token, good luck charm or special piece of jewelry that makes you feel good, have it on you.


If you have a song or playlist that gets you going and makes you feel good, listen to it.

Kathy's secret song....


  • Maintain regular eye contact
  • Speak clearly and enunciate: Make sure that not only do you keep regular eye contact, but try to have your audience see your face and mouth as much as possible. It helps many understand what you are saying and understand meaning.
  • Use your body and use the space
  • Vary speed and pitch; facial expressions: Don’t yell … you are having a conversation with your audience.
  • Check in with your audience
  • Interact with audience
  • Encourage note taking
  • Because you aren't reading a script, you'll be able to watch your audience's reaction to your delivery. Are they confused? Do they understand what you are saying? Look for body language and adjust accordingly.
  • Have an idea of things or activities that you can do to expand upon on idea of your audience is confused.
  • Include delivery reminders. Leave yourself notes and reminders within your notes. For example, "Breathe".. or "Slow Down" or sample questions to spur conversation or classroom contribution.