Acing Your Research Presentation – Caoimhe Tiernan

I have had the pleasure of presenting my study on sIgA as a predictor of Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) at the America College of Sport Medicine (ASCM) 2019 international conference only a few weeks ago. My most recent achievement was presenting my PhD at the Thesis in 3 final between the University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate and Limerick Institute of Technology, where I came second. I had to present my whole PhD (3.5 years) in 3-minutes. For this blog, I am going to provide some points, which worked for me, on trying to ace your presentation.

Pre presentation advice:

  • Prep in advance as much as possible by doing little bits at a time.
    • Get your ideas down on slides as soon as you can.
    • I start putting little notes on the slides weeks ahead.
    • This will help with any last minute rushes. Once everything is written down you just need to finalise the slides and put in a few pictures.
  • Have great friends to help you practice, practice and practice again.
  • I was advised by someone to practice in the mirror and I laughed at them but then I thought, I cannot keep asking my one friend every 5-minutes to practice. Therefore, I decided to give it a try and it was great at helping me get used to making awkward eye contact and speaking aloud. It is very easy to talk it over in your head and thinking ‘yeah I got this’ then you speak it out loud and the words are mumbled, you speak too fast, you miss pronounce words….etc.
  • Nerves – what do you do about them? I found the more I knew my script off by heart the more confident I felt.
  • Keep your slides simple and clear, this includes not overdoing it on writing or pictures. Visual is better and ensure the writing is of a sufficient font size for people to read.


During the presentation:

  • Give a smile every now and then.
  • Try (and I know it is very hard) but make it conversational. Get different tones in your voice, you do not want to sound like a robot. Yes, I did sound like a robot but with practice and rehearsing, it become more natural.
  • Be enthusiastic about your topic, it will keep the audience engaged.
  • Make sure you slow down and speak clearly. If you struggle with a word just change it around. For some reason I was getting stuck on ‘appropriately’ so I just changed it to ‘suitably’.
  • I think we all know this, but try not to read off the slides, use them as a guide. By looking at the audience you keep them engaged in what you are saying.
  • Try not to walk all over the stage or flap your arms around. Hand gestures and moving is good but too much of it can distract the audience.
  • Mistakes can happen, as long as you pretend it was meant to happen no one else will know.
  • Most importantly, be sure to mention ALL of your supervisors!!! You never know if they might be watching.

Final Point- rehearse and practice, practice and rehearse and do this aloud as much as possible.

Caoimhe Tiernan (BSc, MSc) is a PhD postgraduate researcher in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick. Her current research interests include fatigue, recovery in high performance sport to optimising training and reducing risk of injury and illness.   You can contact Caoimhe via email at on twitter at @caoimhetiernan or view Caoimhe’s research profile on Linked-In or Researchgate.

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