Planning your presentation

Topic Progress:

Argument and Structure

Two key words to think about when planning your proposal presentation are argument and structure.

The aim of your presentation is to convince your audience (particularly your Review Panel) that your proposed research:

  • needs to be done
  • can be done using your chosen research design and
  • can be done by you!

To persuade your audience of this, your presentation needs to be a sustained argument, not merely an informative, descriptive presentation. Ask yourself: What THREE things do I want the audience to remember about my research proposal?

Presentations need a clear structure so the audience can follow the ‘story line’. The basic story line is of course:

  • Introduction (‘tell them what you’re going to tell them)
  • Body (‘tell them’)
  • Conclusion (‘tell them what you just told them’).

However, where you can lose your way is in presenting the body. This should also have its own clear structure, which includes a more specific story line. In this you need to emphasise three key points: 

  • What your research is about
  • Why it needs to be done
  • How you will do it. 

For example:

These are my research questions/problems/aims/objectives…
  This research needs to be done because….
  The most effective research design to address these questions is…

Look at each of these elements in your written proposal. Underline the essential information from each and type a list of dot points. Now read each point again and ask yourself: Do I really need this? What value will it add to the presentation? Keep in mind that your audience will be a mixture of experts and non-experts on your topic, so ensure all concepts and technical words will be understood by all.

Have a look at this structure. Would it work for your presentation? If not, what changes would you make?

You’ll need to produce PowerPoint slides to support your presentation and you should give these some thought. You should be the focus of your slides, not the other way around.


Think about PowerPoint presentations you’ve made in the past. How much thought did you give to the design and readability? How much text did you have on each slide? How did you determine your colour scheme? Now read the following section on tips for designing PowerPoint slides. What would you do differently this time?

Ten tips for better PPT slides

Your slides should only highlight key points, which you will elaborate on. Here are some pointers to help make your slides effective:

  1. Less is more – keep your slides simple. Decrease the amount of text and increase the amount of white space. If the text takes more than three seconds to read, reduce the number of words. 
  2. Use graphics/tables/diagrams where possible (but keep them simple); as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
  3. Balance the text and graphics
  4. Animation can be distracting – use sparingly
  5. Don’t use more than three colours
  6. Make sure the text colour can be read easily against your background colour, and beware of red/green contrasts – many people suffer from red/green colour-blindness.
  7. Use simple fonts (fancy fonts are often difficult to read)
  8. Use large font sizes (no less than size 18)
  9. Use consistent formatting, e.g. font type and size in main points, sub-points, etc.
  10. Use no more than two font styles.

Check out the video below to see some examples of good and bad PowerPoint slides.