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The University of Southampton
English for EngineersUnderstanding assessed tasks


Presentations are used, not only in the academic world but in many organisations, to convey information in an interesting, often persuasive way, in a short space of time. Since speaker and audience are together, questions and discussion of the topic are also possible.


Think about   Good Practice
What you will say What are the key points you want to get across?

How much detail can you include within the time limit?

What kind of language will you use?
Repeat the key point(s) in the introduction, main part and conclusion.

Only plan to say as much as you can fit in without rushing.
Time yourself so that you can adjust the content to fit the time you have.

Use natural, spoken language. If your presentation is based on a written paper, avoid taking sentences, unchanged, from this.
Using I/we is fine in presentations.
What you will show What images/ diagrams/ data would be helpful to the audience?

What writing do you need on your slides?

What will make the slides easy to read?
Choose visuals which help the audience to understand your talk and which gain, and maintain, their attention.  Limit the number of visuals so that you can spend enough time talking about each one.

Keep the number of words on slides to a minimum.

Make the font size big enough for everyone in the room to read – the same applies to tables and diagrams. Choose a colour and style that is easy to read.
 References Have you acknowledged all sources you have used? Acknowledge the source of all information including pictures.
 Practising How will you remember what to say and be more confident when giving your presentation?

How will you avoid any nervous habits which might distract the audience?
Practise giving your presentation a number of times, on your own or to a friend.

Ask your friends to help you identify these, e.g. saying Um.. too often; walking about too much.


Speaking Volume Speak loudly enough to reach the back of the room – but avoid shouting!
Pace  Speak slowly enough to give your audience time to take in what you are saying.
However, vary your pace and pause between points to make your delivery more natural and interesting to listen to.
Body language Where to look Look at the audience as much as possible.
A quick look down at cue cards is fine but avoid any reading from cards or a script.
Also avoid spending too much time facing the screen.
  Movement Some movement can add interest. You should not stand rigidly with your arms by your sides, but nor should you walk around a lot or wave your arms too much.

Further reading

Silyn-Roberts, 2000, Writing for Science and Engineering: Papers, Presentations and Reports. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann

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