Institute of Archaeology


Giving a presentation

These resources give some tips and tricks for giving effective presentations

Being able to present your ideas clearly and convincingly is an important skill to practice at university which will also help you prepare for the workplace. Giving a presentation to your peers in a seminar can be a nerve-wracking proposition, but with practice and good preparation, it can even be fun!

Preparing your presentation

  • Preparation is one of the most important parts of delivering an effective presentation and it can also help to control the nerves - you can never over-prepare! 
  • Consider your audience and their background knowledge of your topic, this will help you to decide on content and style.
  • Before putting your presentation together, you must define the aims, topic and depth of argument. Be realistic about how much material you can cover as it is important that you keep within your time limit.
  • Structure your presentation as a narrative. Typically, oral presentations have three main stages:
    - The introduction: (what you intend to say)
    - The body (the presentation itself)
    - Conclusions (what you have said)
  • Ensure that you set out clearly any key topics/ terms, any underlying assumptions and historical background before jumping into the detail. 
  • If you use a script, remember to write it for verbal delivery - avoid complex sentence structures, passive voice and complicated words. You want your audience to be convinced by your arguments, not trying to figure out what you mean!

Preparing your Powerpoint Slides

  • Your slides should clarify and support your argument in an attractive and comprehensive way. 
  • Don't have too many slides. A good rule of thumb is 1 Powerpoint slide per minute, so, 15 ‘slides’ for a 15 minute talk. 
  • Bullet points are more effective than large amounts of text and allow your audience to concentrate on what you are saying rather than reading the slide (4-5 bullet points max per slide). These bullet points can also act as prompts if you are not using a script. 
  • Font size should be large enough to be legible to be visible (e.g. 22 - 28 for the text and 34-40 for titles.)
  • Pictures/diagrams must also be clear, legible and large enough to be visible.
  • If possible use only one san serif typeface. Experiment with available styles and find one that you can read from a distance. For emphasis you could always use bold face, italics or colour.
  • Use caps and lowercase instead of all caps for easier reading.
  • Colour can be used sparingly for emphasis (e.g. headings, key points, labelling images/ graphs), however make sure it does not confuse or distract the audience.
  • It is generally recommended to use dark text on a pale background for maximum legibility. 


  • Rehearse and time your presentation before ‘the day’. You may find it useful to do a 'dry-run' with a friend who can give you feedback
  • Read over your notes/script/powerpoint the morning you are to speak. The more familiar you become with them, the less you will need to look at them.
  • Anticipate possible questions and think about your responses.


  • Pitch your presentation to the level of your audience (do not always assume knowledge of specialist information)
  • If nervous - a script may be best for your first time out 
  • Be conscious of speaking clearly and slowly
  • Get your audience on side with eye contact (and if you like - appropriate humour)
  • Watch your audience and respond to their ‘hints’
  • Answer questions as concisely as possible. If you are not sure if you have understood the question, rephrase it and ask them to confirm it. And remember it is okay not to have all the answers...you can simply thank them for the question and say that you will need to consider that further.