Conference Season Special #4 – Delivery and Handling Questions

It is completely normal to feel adrenaline before a presentation. Preparation is the key to removing chance. The amount of preparation time you need is inverse you the amount of presenting experience you have. So when you are just starting out you will need to rehearse more. Make sure that you:

  • Make cue sheets
  • Practice out loud
  • Time your rehearsals
  • Practice on a real people

Your goal is to be able to say all your content comfortable within the allocated time whilst talking naturally.

When you are rehearsing you should think about how you can vary your delivery and avoid monotony:

  • Articulation
  • Volume
  • Eye contact
  • Speed

Managing stage fright

  • Look at your audience as people who really need something that you have the privilege to be giving them. Think about how you behave when you have guests in your home. You would focus on their comfort and their enjoyment. Think of your audience as guests. Keep this in mind when you are rehearsing stop thinking about yourself.
  • Let go of egocentricity: What will they think of me? Will they criticise me? Everyone will be looking at me!
  • Going from self-centred to other-centred is the way out of the discomfort of stage fright.
  • You are actually competing with other people’s preoccupations rather than their criticisms.

Managing nerves

There are two types of nervousness:

  • Tangible – this can be dealt with by adequate preparation
  • Intangible – accept it and deal with the symptoms

Ways to deal with nervous symptoms:

Dry mouth Water
Tense muscles Wriggle toes
Shallow breathing Deep breathing
Feeling scared Power posture – when we use power postures we feel more confident. Our bodies tell our minds. For info on power postures see Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk listed in the resources at the end of this handout.


Tongue feels fat in mouth Move your mouth and jaw muscles vigorously as though chewing toffee for 1 minute before you present

 Handling questions

  • Listen to the question, this may seem obvious, but many presenters relax as soon as they finish the formal part of the presentation and forget to pay attention to the questions properly.
  • If you do not understand do not hesitate to clarify what they mean.
  • Always repeat the question so that the audience has another chance to gather what is being asked.
  • Then pause to formulate an answer. It is perfectly respectable to do this.
  • If you know the answer; answer the question but also try to do this concisely so that other people can have a chance to ask you a question if they want to.
  • If you do not know the answer you have two options. Consider whether the question is within the scope of your presentation – if not politely state that it is not. If the question is within scope, you should state what you do know about the answer.
  • Do not try and bluff. Nobody expects students to have all the answers.

Check list for a presentation*

Speech Yes/no Delivery Yes/no
Necessary information conveyed?   Controls nerves?  
Audience targeted?   Displays energy?  
Terms defined?   Displays confidence?  
Assertions supported?   Voice engages?  
Tone varied?   Speed is appropriate?  
Examples given?   Eye contact made?  
Structure   Movements were appropriate?  
Organisation of the beginning   Body language looked comfortable?  
Scope defined?  
Justification given?  
Proper background given?  
Talk memorably mapped?  
Organisation of the middle  
Division of middle logical?  
Arguments methodically made?  
Organisation of the end  
Main points summarised?  
Linked to objective in beginning?  
Beginning è Middle?  
Between main points of middle?  
Middle è End?  
Presentation slides  
Slides are clear to read?  
Show talk’s organisation?  
Show key images?  
Show key results?  

 *Not all items will apply to every presentation


Your body language shapes who you are:

EPS Academics on YouTube:

David Schultz’s website Eloquent Science; has an excellent list of resources:

Writing and Speaking Guidelines for Engineering and Science:

Really good podcast and advice about scientific presentations:

The Craft of Scientific Presentation:


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