Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS

PP5182 Redesigning Models of Global Power Relations
Meetings: Tuesdays 0900h-1200h, MM Seminar Room 2-2 (2016 Sem 1)
Instructor: Danny Quah
Email / Twitter: D.Quah@nus.edu.sg / @DannyQuah
Office: OTH, Wing A, #02-03a; +65.6601.5506
Consultation Hours: Tuesdays 1300h-1500h
Related Pages: PP5182 homepage | Presentations Schedule | Making Presentations | Writing Papers


Your presentation counts 20% towards your final grade. It obviously follows you should try to do your best at it. More than that, however, every presentation you make is an opportunity to prepare for the next presentation.

The Assignment

Your presentation assignment in this course can take one of two possible forms. It is entirely up to you which you undertake.

The first possibility: You have been tasked with making a presentation to the company's Board of Directors, your nation's Cabinet or Presidential Council, a Management Board, the newspaper's Editorial Board, or similar. They have heard about some emerging issue that stakeholders (the nation's citizens, their journal readers, G20 delegates, or their company's shareholders) have become concerned about — perhaps people are worried about immigration.

(The specific examples I use here and below are not the same content as given this course on Global Power Relations. This is to make clear it is principles we're discussing, that should apply generally, and so we don't get overly distracted into thinking only certain kinds of issues will be important for your presentation.)

You have to summarise to this meeting the key points and arguments they need to know about this issue. You do not have to take a position yourself on the policy question: Your job is just to provide an overview of what is known, that is, what has been written up by academics and observers and other participants in the debate. Your audience will want to go on and make a speech about the general topic, and take questions from a potentially antagonistic audience: You need to prepare them with both critical facts [“it is simply not true that 90% of the new jobs created have gone to immigrants”] and important lines of reasoning [“our nation is not one where there are only so many jobs to go around: economic prosperity creates yet new opportunities for all”].

The second possibility: You are a participant in an academic or political debate—one that is related to or even exactly an issue we are considering in the readings and syllabus. As just an example, perhaps you have decided to discuss the proposition: “Without ballot box elections and free media, no government can be viewed as legitimate, no matter how much they say they (and actually do) serve their people.” You feel strongly on one side or other of this. It can be a position based on empirical evidence or underlying political theory or philosophical reasoning. You will make a presentation that argues your case, attempting, among other things, to anticipate possible objections and counter-arguments.

General Rules

All presentations will end no more than 15 minutes after they begin. This is to be fair to everyone, but also to maintain a pace and rhythm useful in such discussions generally. You will find you need to be brutal with your decisions to keep to what is exactly central and key in what you want to say. Be especially clear to your audience what you want them to see as your takeaway key messages.

Given the issue you have selected, you might want to share additional readings with the rest of the class, by 1700h Friday before your presentation.


What follows is just some unofficial advice about presentations generally. They're not so much rules as gentle hints. No one ever gets perfect at making presentations. Even the best speakers and presenters (Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton) always kept looking for ways to improve.

Part of getting good at anything is knowing when to break the rules. Just be able to explain to yourself honestly why you needed to have done so.

  1. Don't read from your slides. Slides are there to help the audience understand your message; they're not there to help you remember it.
  2. Don't use your slides as notes for speaking. Don't think about going linearly through your slides. For some presentations, don't even look at your slides. They're up there for your audience, not for you. You want to give the audience the impression that you are so in command of the material you're presenting, you could just talk to them about the facts and ideas, without crib notes.
  3. Memorise your slides so you can go through them without even looking at them. Never let an audience see you're surprised by what's just appeared on screen—the surprise is for them, and they need to know you've prepared it so. You have to seem in complete control, even when some slides have accidentally gotten out of sequence.
  4. Don't have (many) words on your slides—except as illustrations to make a point about something else.
  5. Begin strong. End strong. Sometimes that's all an audience will remember from the time you get with them.

Danny Quah
Last modified: Fri Aug 19 10:28:58 Malay Peninsula Standard Time 2016