Academic Module 3: Giving Academic Presentations

17 Giving Academic Presentations: Talks, Power Points, and Posters

As mentioned earlier, students enrolled in college courses, especially in the U.S., are often required to demonstrate their knowledge and perspectives on a given topic in the form of oral presentations. Before we look at the different formats these presentations may occur in, let’s first look at the tasks of preparing and giving presentations through the lens of audience, purpose, and parameters, or APP.

Audience, Purpose, and Parameters (APP)

Let’s start with the first criterion–the audience.

  • When you present information orally, whether informally (e.g. while participating in a discussion in the class) or formally (e.g. a graded individual or group presentation on a topic assigned by the professor), who is the target audience? Generally, students present ideas and information to the members of the classroom community, which include both the professor and other students. In this case, you would again need to decide about the language(s) and the appropriate tone or register you would need to use. In other words, who your audience is informs what you say and what you write in a college course. Therefore, it is very helpful to identify clearly who the target audience is for any academic assignment, especially presentations.

Now, let’s look at the second criterion–the purpose.

  • The purpose of a presentation, individual or group, may vary. Some presentations are informative, others are descriptive, and some tend to be persuasive. Some presentations combine all of these elements. The patterns that are used in composing an essay are used in oral presentations as well. To ensure that the presentation matches the assignment, read the assignment guidelines carefully to gauge what the purpose of the presentation is and then ensure that the information is appropriately crafted.

The final criterion of a good presentation is the parameters.

  • As you read the guidelines of the presentation, make sure to note what the parameters are: what format are you required to use (speech, Power Point, poster, and so forth); what is the length allowed (how many minutes, for instance); what language(s) and register are you expected to use (e.g. academic English); and so on. In some presentations, there may be time set aside for questions and answers (Q&A) or discussion. Make sure to prepare for that as well, if required.

Common Presentation Formats

The three most common ways in which students formally present information in college courses are as talks/speeches, through Power Points, and with posters.

Talks and Speeches

Many students find the idea of giving a speech or a talk intimidating. That is understandable, but know that all good orators use certain skills and strategies to give interesting and relevant oral presentations. These skills and strategies may vary from one country/culture/context to another. As you adapt your presentation styles to the U.S. college context, think about how a ‘good talk’ is perceived as here.

Watch this video of Chris Anderson, the founder of TedTalk, as he explains how to give great talks. As you watch, try to take notes about strategies that you could use in your talks and presentations in this course and beyond.

Power Points

Students have to often given presentations using such tools as Power Point in college courses. Montgomery College’s Digital Learning Centers offer a helpful workshop titled ‘Power Point Basics’ multiple times in a year. [1]


Another format that is often used to give a presentation is with posters. In academic conferences, for instance, special times and spaces are regularly set aside for poster presentations. In college courses, students may have to work individually or in groups to create and present posters. Some workplaces, as well, may require these skills.  A well-organized poster presentation showcases the presenter’s deep understanding of the topic. Convincing facts are provided, and there are many details and explanations — both in the poster and in the presentation itself. A good poster also contains the right balance of graphics and text, and the presenter remains mindful of the audience, purpose, and parameters provided by the instructor.

  1. There are many other similar or more interactive formats available for giving presentations, such as Google Slides and Prezi. Explore these formats in your free time and become more familiar with them. They may come in handy in your future academic and professional presentations.


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Demystifying Academic English by Rashi Jain is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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