Today we finished the last session of Research and Presentation Skills. The session was composed of five presentations from the undergraduates, each presentation by a group of around 6-10 people.

There were a couple of very good examples; one extremely exciting and over-the-top group effort owed a lot to the influence of Glee! However on the back of this I wanted to throw up a couple of points to remember, in case I get to TA for this class again.

The main learning point for me was that there are clearly some ‘common-sense’ points to presentation that aren’t quite as common-sense to everyone as you might expect. These include;

  • Do not read your presentation. In a group presentation you’ll only speak for a minute or two each. Better to struggle a little bit than read verbatim off a sheet.
  • Do not  say ‘erm’. It’s self-explanatory. There no excuse for this if you’re reading off a sheet!
  • Do NOT read the power point slides. Seriously, don’t do it, it’s patronising to your audience. It’s up there on ‘top ways to make your audience hate you’.
  • Do not chew gum whilst speaking. It’s rude. Really rude. And it makes you look and sound like an extra out of Grease.
  • Please god do not fiddle with things while talking. We understand you are nervous, but if you click and un-click that pen one more time…
  • Do not interrupt each other! You’re a group – don’t undermine someone by interrupting to correct them. And even worse:
  • Do not talk or giggle whilst one of your group is speaking! I have no idea why some people did this, but this is a big no-no. No one will respect a group who are talking amongst themselves whilst one of them is presenting.
  • Please stand up to speak. Not bothering to stand up is rude. And tied with reading off a sheet makes you look like you couldn’t be bothered.

On a more constructive note, remember that as with any assessment or exercise, the lecturer and your colleagues will be expecting you to deliver a critical evaluation of whatever it is you’re presenting on. Simply reading off a list of facts not only puts people to sleep, it also isn’t constructive. Evidence is good, but it needs to lead towards critical reflection, argument, discussion, etc.

Finally, and I can’t believe I’m saying this – if you are asked to do a presentation, YOU WILL NEED VISUAL AIDES. Powerpoint is the expected form of visual communication. If you do not use Powerpoint, you had better have something extremely good up your sleeve!

When it comes down to it – there’s nothing quite like actually having to stand at the front to make most people start ‘erm’ing and giggling at their neighbour. As an undergrad you can totally get away with this kind of thing – as long as your presentation isn’t assessed. But chewing gum and reading from a sheet will not help you in a job interview – so forgive your TA for pointing this out!

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2 thoughts on “TA’s thoughts: Undergraduate group presentations

  1. I always read powerpoint slides (as a lecturer) for accessibility reasons. You can never guarantee that everyone in the room can read or see them. I explain this to new students, too 😀

    I agree with everything else, though! I’ve sat through some students’ presentations experiencing similar irritations in recent weeks.

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