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Giving presentations is a key skill that employers expect graduates to have, so you should make the most of any experience you can get at university. The Europaeum is pleased to offer students from our network a friendly and supportive setting to practice telling us, and fellow students, what you are passionate about intellectually.

At most core events we will invite a selection of students to present for 15–20 minutes on the topic of a proposal submitted as part of the application process. Occasionally, we will ask participants to make shorter “elevator” style pitches of 5–10 minutes instead.

Please do not go over the required length for papers. You will be stopped (even mid-sentence) at the time limit and will then have five mins to respond to comments.

A guide for responding to presentations is also available.

Our top tips  for good presentations:

1. Think about your audience

Not all audiences are gathered equal. Most audiences can be viewed in layers: some members will be experts in your sub-field, some in the general area, but others know little or nothing. Who is most important to you – in general and regarding a specific point you need to make? Can you still leave others with something when you address the primary targets?

2. Think about your goals

Two rhetorical goals are important for many presentations: (1) leave the audience with a clear picture of what you are saying, and (2) make them want to read more on the topic (ideally, your thesis when it’s finished!). Do not read out sections of your thesis! A fifteen-minute presentation cannot replace a thesis or thesis chapter, but can whet an appetite for it by showcasing a particular angle of or aspect to it.

As a guide, think in terms of the ratio 5:7:3:

  • 5  minutes to introduce your argument/topic and supply us with any necessary context we need to follow it.
  • 7 minutes to set out your research and/or counter possible objections.
  • 3 minutes to give us the top ‘headlines’ you want us to take away from your talk.

3. Understand the difference between oral communication and written communication

Related to the above: listeners have one chance to hear a talk. They cannot “re-read” parts of it they find confusing. In many situations, such as in Europaeum events, they will have to hear (or will have heard) many presentations that day. Clarity is particularly important for keeping an audience fresh and engaged with what you are saying. Achieve this by keeping things simple, perhaps by focusing on two or three key points. Repeat key insights. Indeed, consider, telling your audience what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.

4. Practice in public

It is hard distilling a subject you have been working on and feel passionate about down to 15 or 20 minutes. Practice may not make perfect but it will help you work out which parts of your research are really important and also which parts are readily communicated via oral presentation.

5. Prepare

We can’t emphasise this strongly enough!


See also: Rules for Participating in Europaeum events.