In many undergraduate and graduate programs, the capstone is the culmination of a student's college-level work through a research project in her area of study. After working closely with a faculty member and writing a scholarly paper, students are often required to share their findings through an oral presentation to faculty and students as part of their grade. Despite the stress of presenting an important project for evaluation, **good preparation and public speaking skills can help you ace this area of your capstone experience.**
Practice and Prepare
You may have been composing and researching your capstone paper for months, but talking about your work is different than writing about it. Your professors will likely evaluate your presentation based on fluency; rather than reading verbatim from a script or note cards, you should be able to present extemporaneously with confidence in your material. As you practice, think about how each part of the presentation leads into the next to create structure and sequence for viewers and emphasize your project's thesis. Once you're comfortable with the presentation, try it on some friends to get feedback.
Create Visible Visuals
Visual aids are a common requirement for capstone presentations; they are also a common source of technical difficulties and confusion. Start preparing your visual material well in advance, keeping in mind that its primary purpose is to augment your spoken information. The text should be big enough that even audience members in the back of the room can read it. Avoid distracting fonts or colors. Use just a little text that adds to what you'll be saying rather than taking away from it. Audiences will be able to read the slides faster than you can summarize them; avoid large chunks of text that will distract audiences from your spoken material.
Know the Presentation Environment
Visiting the location of your presentation can take away some of the butterflies in the lead-up to capstone day as well as give you an idea of what to expect when you take the podium. As you inspect the room, pay attention to what equipment is available for audio and visual sources, as well as any potentially distracting elements like temperature, lighting and room size. You might give your visual materials a test run to ensure that you know how to work the equipment. If your program offers you the chance to rehearse in the room and get feedback from a faculty member, take advantage of the opportunity.
Use Good Public Speaking Skills
Ultimately, quality presentation skills will sell your audience on your message and earn you superior marks from professors. As you practice your presentation, pay attention to any habits that could distract audiences, such as poor eye contact, repeated hand motions and other actions like turning your back on the audience. Be courteous and respectful to the faculty and other presenters by keeping your presentation within the allotted time frame, considering what information can best suit the audience's needs within those limitations. On the day of the presentation, conduct yourself in a professional manner through behavior, speech and appearance, wearing business-casual clothes for the occasion.
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