How I Handle My Class Presentations

There’s a good chance that at some point during your time at KCL you’ll need to give a presentation to your seminar group. Some courses have modules where a presentation forms part of the assessment, others have purely formative presentations that don’t count towards your official grade but are valuable practice. Either way, they’re a part of your degree programme that you may not have anticipated when you were browsing for a course all that time ago, and if you’re anything like me the idea of having to give a presentation in front of a class is not a pleasant one. I certainly didn’t look forward to my first one, however I got through it just fine – how did I manage that?

Firstly, I can’t emphasise enough how easy it is to overthink the magnitude of these presentations. Even the assessed ones are well within your ability as a university student – the staff aren’t asking you to write a series of lectures on a specialist subject, they aren’t even asking for a single exceptional intervention into a critical field. The purpose of the presentations is to ensure that, during your time at uni, you share your ideas with an immediate audience and discuss them thoroughly with such an audience. Exams, projects, and essays are well-established parts of the academic structure, but there are several degrees of separation between your coursework essay and the eventual result – a lot happens in the month it takes feedback to arrive, and by the time it arrives there’s a good chance you don’t remember a lot about writing your work. In a presentation, you’re still studying and handling the subject matter extensively as with an exam or essay, you’re merely communicating your thoughts and findings to a live audience instead.

Clearly, a different assessment format requires different skills. Many people find, as I myself once did, the expectation of leading a group of relative strangers through an ‘intellectual’ discussion daunting. The key thing to bear in mind is that (especially if it’s an assessment) everybody is in the same boat. Your classmates will know exactly the pressure and responsibility of speaking for an extended time, and even the most confident individuals likely know they’re exceptional and will do their best to understand the situation from your perspective. Whilst it’s easy to be cynical and believe everybody is self-obsessed – and a few people are, naturally – my personal experience is that classmates want to help each other out, at least during class, and they’ll try to be an interested and receptive audience during your presentation. Being questioned in the middle of your presentation might be your definition of a nightmare in the build-up to the day but be assured, addressing an engaged class is far easier than talking at a wall of silence. Everybody wants their presentations to go smoothly, and in hoping for that they’ll inevitably help to make all the presentations flow well. It might be your specific presentation for a short time, but the class is in it together.

This point about not being alone is so important. It’s all too easy to disappear into yourself come assessment time, but despite the final grade being written next to your name there’s a lot of help you can get to during your preparations. Your friends and classmates are an obvious source of assistance, so obvious that you likely don’t realise how often you discuss uni stuff, yet they’re only one avenue – your lecturers and seminar leaders, as well as your personal tutor, are more than willing to run through your ideas with you. They understand the assessment and what they’re looking for, making them more than qualified to answer any questions and address any doubts you have. Use this support if and when you feel you need to, don’t hesitate.

Above all, remember that you can certainly handle these presentations. They’re not the beasts they may appear to be when written as an intimidating part of your final grade, and far from being a chore, they’re a great opportunity to discuss subject material you really enjoy. Take charge of the presentation and make it somet