Structuring and Delivering an Effective Presentation

Library for Educators
7 min readNov 17, 2023

R23–1053 MECH60041

Links to: R23–1053 MECH60041 Evaluation and Synthesis for Literature Reviews in Engineering

Supporting materials:

  • Slides/materials: Slides, extracts from two articles (1: Gamage et al.; 2: Zizka et al. — these should also be uploaded to students’ Blackboard site), literature note-making template, pens
  • Practicalities: It is useful to have several printed copies of the article extracts and the literature note-making templates in case students want to work on paper.
  • Group size: Up to 120
  • Length: 50 minutes
  • Room: Zochonis Theatre B
  • Discipline: Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering
  • Level: PGT

Learning outcomes:

By the end of the session, students will be able to:

  • Identify the stages of preparing a presentation: researching and planning; structuring the presentation; and practising the presentation out loud to check clarity of delivery and timings;
  • Select and critique key arguments from two journal articles and decide which points should form the structure of their presentation;
  • Structure a brief presentation in a logical, coherent order.

Suggested online resources:

Session Plan

Slide 1: Introduction and session aims

Take paper register at start of session with students’ names and ID numbers (get students to pass it round)

Explain that this session will be interactive, involve group work and talking to each other — we hope to give them hands-on practice of the techniques that we suggest. Students will get the most out of the session by participating and be willing to share their ideas.

Slides 2–3: The goals of a presentation

Show quote on slide 2 with a definition of a presentation. Explain that, while many of us are understandably nervous about being asked to deliver a presentation, it represents an opportunity to demonstrate what we know and to explain why this matters to the audience.

Show slide 3 question and ask students to briefly discuss this with a neighbour, if time. After a couple of minutes, take students’ ideas from the room, then show the possible reasons on the slide (each object is animated to display and talk around one at a time). Explain that, ultimately, there are lots of benefits to be had from demonstrating your knowledge via a presentation, and the skills that you learn from preparing and delivering presentations are highly transferable to areas such as job interviews.

Slide 4: Three key stages of preparing a presentation

Show slide 4 and talk through the basic outline of researching your topic and planning what you will focus on, then structuring your ideas into a clear framework, and finally the importance of setting time aside to practise to check timings and clarity. Explain that we will look at each step in turn on the following slides, with an activity for each step.

Slides 5–6: Research and plan

Slide 5: Talk through key things to consider before you even start researching for your presentation. What is the purpose of your presentation? Who will be watching it, and what prior knowledge do they have of your topic? Do you need to inform, persuade or convince your audience (or a combination of these)?

In the case of this cohort, you could argue that their presentation will need to do all 3 of these things: they are expected to compare 2 articles, inform their audience of the key comparisons/differences, and persuade the audience of their conclusions. As they only have 5 minutes (!), it will need to be punchy and they will need to keep their main point in mind while they decide what to include. What is their key message going to be to the audience?

Slide 6: Activity 1: Students do NOT read the articles yet — they will in activity 2. Allocate students to groups of 4 — these can be sitting next to each other or perhaps easier to make ‘square groups’ if in a lecture theatre (2 students from the row behind work with the 2 students in front of them). So, from the back row, ask 2 students to work with the 2 in front of them, etc. If they are not sat in a 4, move to be with another group.

Give them a few minutes to discuss the aims for their presentation in the context of their assessment. (They will need to do a bit of all 3 (persuade, inform, compare) — they are expected to compare the 2 articles, inform their audience of the key comparisons/differences, and persuade the audience of their conclusions). As per the slide, ask them to consider what they will need to include or leave out depending on their audience. After a few minutes, take feedback — students may mention that audience will have specialist knowledge of the field in general, but may not know the niche that they are researching; as such, they may need to give definitions of terms or brief context of the specific field that they are researching.

Slides 7–10: Structure your framework

Slide 7: Give students some things to consider when structuring their presentation. At this stage of the process students need to be selective and ask themselves: what do I want to say? Is it relevant to the topic and the aims of my presentation? Will it help the audience to understand my key messages?

Students can manage expectations: You can outline what will and won’t be in the presentation, and perhaps briefly say why you’ve chosen to focus on what you have. You can’t discuss everything in 5 minutes, as the next slide illustrates.

Slide 8: The presentation pyramid intends to illustrate that you might know a lot about the topic, but you can’t say everything here. Your presentation is like a shop window — a brief overview of key ideas. Your audience can ask questions/read more of your work (or others’) if they want to know more.

Slide 9: Activity 2 — structure your framework (part 1)

Direct students to the two article extracts and the literature note-making template on Blackboard. Hand out paper copies if needed.

Explain that in their groups of 4, students will read the two articles on Blackboard and note down comparisons between what they say on the topic (sustainability in engineering education). Remind them to engage critically — for example, do the authors omit anything? Are there any issues with their methodology? Model reading the start of an article actively and asking yourself/writing down questions as you go along — not just reading it cover to cover.

Allow c. 10–15 minutes for students to discuss and note key points and questions that arise from the articles. Move around the room and check in with groups as they work, answering questions and asking more questions about students’ ideas to stretch their critical thinking.

Slide 10: Activity 2 — structure your framework (part 2)

Emphasise that it is better to have a few very clear, very persuasive, well-evidenced points in a presentation than trying to cover everything. This will be much more memorable and persuasive for the audience. Audiences can always ask questions or read up on your written work for more detail.

Ask students to review their key points from the two articles with this in mind. What are their conclusions from comparing the two articles? What message emerges, perhaps about their approaches to researching this topic, or their findings? (Students only have 5 minutes for their presentation, so they can’t have many key points — maybe 3 at most!) After they have done this, students spend a few minutes considering a logical order for their points, thinking about how one point leads into the next. Allow 4–5 minutes for this.

Slides 11–13: Practise to check clarity

Explain that students are going to deliver an elevator pitch of their key points and conclusions from the articles. Before they do any presentation, it is essential to practise it and to check that it is clear for the audience to follow (see tips on slide 11). Students will not make slides in this session due to time — these ideas are just to give a few pointers.

Slide 12: If time, ask students to choose a person to represent their group and present their pitch — but they should all run through the key points together! For the purpose of this session, not everyone has to present — but this activity is to demonstrate how to rehearse beforehand. Doing a full practice run-through (ideally more than once!) is especially important when you only have a short amount of time — you will need to be very concise and clear on your key messages in that time.

Slide 13: Students turn to the group nearest them and each presenter takes it in turns to present. The audience should make notes on the key messages that they took away, and any questions they have. They can also comment on timings and clarity of structure.

Slide 14: Tips for handling audience questions

This slide is about ways to reframe questions to feel less nervous about handling them. It is ok not to have the answer to everything on the spot! You can say how you’d find out, or that it’s a very interesting question and something you’d like to look into further (although try not to answer every question with this). Presenting to friends and coursemates is a great way to see what questions people might ask after they have heard your presentation.

Slide 15: Recap

Review the three stages of planning a presentation covered in the session.

Slides 16–17: Further support and resources

Show the further resources (links to TED talks, etc.) and explain that students can look through these on Blackboard. Highlight MLE support — online resources and workshops on presentations.

Slide 18: Qualtrics feedback survey linked to this EP request — please encourage students to scan the QR code and complete this for us to take forward in future MACE sessions.

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