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Questions 1. In what way did starting with the 8 boxes limit or help Clare’s planning of
her presentation?
2. What advice would you give Clare in relation to interacting with her
audience more effectively? 3. In what ways might ‘telling them what you’re going to say, saying it, and
then telling them what you’ve just said’ have helped Clare’s audience? 4. Even if you think you aren’t nervous, why is practising a presentation in
front of a critical friend a good idea?

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Case 14e: Clare’s research project presentation
Lindy Blair, University of Surrey
Clare was slightly nervous when she heard that she had to give a
presentation about her undergraduate research project. She had done
presentations previously, but they had always been in groups. This time it was
a 10-minute individual presentation in front of 5 students and 2 tutors using
PowerPoint. 10 minutes seemed a very long time; and there were also the 2
minutes devoted to audience questions to think about.
Remembering that last year she had taken part in a group presentation for
another module where each member of the group had to speak for 2 minutes,
she looked back at the helpful feedback the group had received from the tutor
which had been divided into five sub-sections:
Visual aids
Audience interaction
Question handling.
She also found her copy of Cameron’s (2009) The Business Student’s
Handbook – skills for study and employment. The two things she remembered
vividly from both her reading and her previous experience was that
preparation was the key and that practice helped combat nerves.
Clare’s research project was entitled ‘To what extent can the retail industry
reduce the threat of terrorism?’ She had enjoyed researching it as it had
increased her understanding of the impact that current world issues had on a
sector that she planned to work in; providing her with the opportunity to focus
on strategic actions taken by both global and local hotel groups.
Deciding to start with the structure of her presentation, Clare worked on the ‘1
slide per minute’ rule-of-thumb that a friend had found on the Internet. She
drew a set of 8 boxes on a piece of paper as a previous tutor had shown her,
and allocated the first to be a ‘Title of presentation’ and the final one to ‘Any
questions’: that left 6 to fill.
Clare knew that the students in the audience and one of the tutors would not
have read her research report and so she decided to outline her research in
slides 2, 3 and 4. This would provide her with the opportunity to clarify the
scope of her research question, use images to highlight the problem, and
describe her research method. She could then use slides 5 and 6 to outline
her findings, and slide 7 to summarise her conclusions.
Looking back at her project report, she was pleased to see that her chosen
structure followed the sections on the contents page. However, opening up
PowerPoint to create a new presentation, her confidence faded as blank
pages with boxes that seemed to demand information in specific formats
stared back at her. She returned to her 8-slide plan and started to scribble in
each box.
Title of presentation
Degree Programme and Student
Research Project question
 scope
 reason for choice of topic
Setting context
(showing the effect of terrorism
and speed of recovery)
Research Methodology used
(+ limitations)
Findings 1
 Bullet points
Findings 2
(graph or chart)
 Bullet points
Any Questions?
Feeling much more in control, she returned to PowerPoint and quickly created
slide layouts that supported what she wanted to say or show at each stage.
She created a master slide to ensure consistency in look for each slide and,
prompted by memories of unreadable lectures slides in some teaching rooms,
checked in which room her presentation would take place. Based on this she
choose a theme that had a dark background with light text. This would provide
the best contrast in a room with some natural light or un-dimmable lighting.
Adding suitable text and two images was then quite straightforward. However
viewing the slide show on her laptop screen Clare noticed that there seemed
to be a lot of text, each bullet point taking at least 2 lines of text. One of the
feedback points from her previous experience was to ensure the slides
‘supported’ what the speaker had to say, not ‘said it with them’. The lecturer
had commented that the audience primarily needs to listen to the speaker, not
read the slide; and they can’t do both. Editing the bullet points was difficult
because the shorter they got, the more information Clare felt she needed to
commit to memory. Adding ‘notes’ to each slide helped, but she still felt
Having finally reached the point when her slide show was almost complete,
she stopped work for the day and went for a drink with her friends. She knew
from her experience of previous presentations that when she revisited the
slideshow the next day, she would look at it with new eyes and spot things
that needed attention. As expected, when she returned to her presentation the
following day she noticed some formatting errors and a couple of spelling
mistakes. Using the spellchecker and showing the slides to a trusted friend
helped ensure her edited presentation looked professional and was error-free.
It was at this stage that Clare started to consider the actual delivery of the
presentation and wondered whether some custom-animation and slidetransitions might enhance her presentation. Adding basic transitions didn’t
detract from her message, and setting up the pictures to appear ‘on next click’
showed the before and after shots in sequence effectively. Clare’s decision
not to add more ‘effects’ was led by memories of her previous group
presentation when things whizzed in and out making noises like bullets and
fireworks – not the sort of image she wanted to portray this time.
She knew it was not appropriate to read her notes out-loud, having listened to
several student groups doing that last year and noticing how stilted it
sounded. She considered memorising it as a speech, but remembered
someone saying ‘Don’t memorise – just rehearse out loud!’ Asking another
friend to act as an audience, she ran through the presentation. She finished in
4 minutes and only remembered to ask for questions when her final slide
appeared. Her friend looked slightly stunned and kindly suggested that she
went through it again remembering to talk more slowly and pause after each
slide so that the listener could take in what she’d said. Her second attempt at
the presentation took 6 minutes and this time Clare was able to glance
sideways at her ‘audience’ whilst she was talking, gauging her friend’s
understanding. At the appropriate moment in the presentation her friend
asked a question relating to the chart in slide 6: ‘I’m confused. Can you
explain the chart in slide 6 to me?’ Whilst initially slightly flustered, Clare was
able to access that slide to answer the question. She recognised that the
chart was not clearly labelled, not even stating the date of the terrorist attack
in question. She also noted that she needed to explain why she was focusing
on comparing quarterly data rather than looking at the overall trend after the
terrorist attack.
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She’d emailed the slides to the tutor, she knew which room she would be
presenting in, she knew her material, she’d practised out loud, and her
presentation had a clear logical structure; however she was still nervous. On
the day of the presentation she sat through 3 other students’ presentations
which did nothing to help her nerves, but when she stood up to speak, she
took a deep breath, as her friend had advised, and introduced herself clearly.
Her hands shook as she clicked on to slide 2, checked her notes and then,
looking directly over the heads of the audience, started to tell them about her
research project in a clear voice. Clare worked through her notes and slides
without noticing the intense reaction to the pictures on slide 3 and the slightly
quizzical faces when she explained the chart in slide 6. Reaching the end of
her slide show Clare glanced at the audience and asked in a quiet voice if
there were any questions. Two people raised their hands. The first question
related to the chart in slide 6 and, in answering it, she reiterated some of the
things she’d said earlier. The second question was a simple query about the
images used in slide 3 and, having answered it and the remaining questions,
Clare sat down to listen to the final student presentation in that group. It was
Looking back on the experience later, Clare decided that she would probably
always be nervous in that sort of situation, but that provided she understood
the subject she was talking about and had spent sufficient time developing a
simple slide show then the outcome would be relatively professional; and
each time would be easier than the last. Feedback from the tutor later
confirmed that the presentation was well structured, her voice pace, pitch and
tone were appropriate and the visual aids, other than slide 6, enhanced the
spoken words. The feedback suggested that she needed to work on her
audience interaction and question handling.
1. In what way did starting with the 8 boxes limit or help Clare’s planning of
her presentation?
2. What advice would you give Clare in relation to interacting with her
audience more effectively?
3. In what ways might ‘telling them what you’re going to say, saying it, and
then telling them what you’ve just said’ have helped Clare’s audience?
4. Even if you think you aren’t nervous, why is practising a presentation in
front of a critical friend a good idea?
Payne, E. and Whittaker, L. (2006) Developing Essential Study Skills. 2nd Ed.
Harlow: Prentice Hall.
Cameron, S. (2009) The Business Student’s Handbook – skills for study and
employment. 5th Ed. Harlow: Prentice Hall.

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