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Study & Research Skills

A guide to smart study and research skills

The following points are important in preparing for and giving an oral presentation:

1. Know your stuff!

Be well prepared! Research your subject and know it well.  Knowing your subject means that you will be more confident and you won't have to worry about remembering the sequence of ideas or words.  Practice your presentation to yourself and then in front of your family or friends.

2. Practice the opening of your presentation and plan exactly how you will say it

Start with a sentence that will make your audience want to hear more.  This could be a famous quotation, a witty phrase, a slogan, a joke or question.  Remember that your audience will judge you within the first 30 seconds they see you.

3. Be open to questions

Questions are good - they show that the audience is listening with interest. If someone asks a question, answer it.  If you can't answer it, turn the question back on to the audience and let someone else answer it.

4. Don't read your presentation

Talk to your audience.  If you must, use notes, but don't depend heavily on them.

5. Keep eye contact

Shift your eye contact around the room so that everyone feels like you are talking to them.  Make sure that you never turn your back on your audience.

6. End on a high note

Always leave your audience feeling upbeat about what they have just heard!

[One of Norwood's past students Jared Halden-Cornish shares his best powerpoint presentation tips]


The title slide has to look really great to grab the attention of your audience.

Keep this first slide as simple as possible, and only put the title with your background. This allows peoples vision to be immediately drawn to the only area with writing. What I usually do is put a line at the top and bottom, and make the key words stand out by making the font larger.

Also, always write your titles and subheadings in capital letters, it looks much better. 


Rule number one about making a power point – no comic sans. 

Font plays an important role in the aesthetic of your power-point, and therefore, how your information is conveyed.  You need to get it right. Don’t use the standard ‘calibri’ font, and don’t use anything boring. Make sure your font suits your issue; don’t use an old English font for an issue which has informal connotation. My go -to font is century gothic, as it looks professional, modern, and is generally aesthetically pleasing. Though, if you want to go that step further, you can download a font offline for free from many websites.  In a nutshell, use a nice-looking font.


Getting the backgrounds right on your power point is essential, as it is what the eye is immediately drawn to. You don’t want a busy, detailed image with too much information to process; as this will detract from your written information. Always have a background that relates to your information; for example, I would use a rainbow for a gay marriage PowerPoint.

And please, please, please, no tacky backgrounds. Far too often I see horrible, low quality backgrounds used for presentations. 

Use high quality images as backgrounds, or, if not, blur them so they look nice.

The tool you should make your best friend in PowerPoint is the format tool for backgrounds. Here, you can manipulate your background as much as you want, making it blurry, darker, sharper, etc.


Keep it consistent, use the same coloured font for your subheadings and information throughout; and try to stick to the same background; but you can vary the backgrounds if the visual is more important than the information.


Contrast your colours correctly. Just use white or black fonts, but if you’re a colourful person, and don’t want to use black and white; use the colour on the opposite side of the spectrum to your background. You want your information to stand out, not blend in.


I know this will be specifically difficult for you all, seeing as all of your information is going onto your PowerPoint and it’s not an oral. But what I usually do to get around this, with big paragraphs of writing, is break it up into smaller parts, and put each bit onto an individual slide. 


Animations can be really effective at emphasising your point, if used correctly. But many people don’t use them well. Please don’t have a list of dot points, and make each one have their own individual effect. Nobody wants to be going through your PowerPoint, or watching you click, and click, and click, and click. Especially for oral presentations, it is so awkward when someone is talking from their cue cards, and forget to keep clicking; and have to keep clicking awkwardly to get to the next slide.

I don’t really use animations, but if I were to use them, I’d reserve them for images only, and only use fade, as it is fast, simple, and looks good.


This ties in nicely to my next point.

You need to get transitions right; my go-to transition is always fade, as it looks much better than the tacky and slow alternatives.


Use high quality, relevant images, and align them in an order which makes sense and looks good. Make sure they don’t cover the text, but if they do, (for example you have too much writing to elegantly fit an image on the slide), add an animation so that in presentation mode, it fades over the writing.