Oral Presentations

Oral presentations can seem daunting, but you can improve your presentation skills over time with practice. When preparing for an oral presentation, it is important to keep in mind the audience that you are presenting to, plan out your presentation ahead of time, and pay attention to the delivery of your presentation.

The Audience

Here are some questions to keep in mind when considering your audience:

  1. Whom am I presenting to?

    • Are they your peers/colleagues? Professors? Board/Committee?

    • Knowing this can change the type of presentation you are going to give, how formal your presentation will be, and the type of language that you will use.

  2. What do they know about my topic already?

    • Are you presenting a topic that the audience knows nothing about? Are they already familiar with the basics/have some understanding of the topic?

    • Knowing this can change the amount of information you provide & the type of language you use. 

  3. What does the audience want to know about your topic?

    • Do they want to know the specifics about your presentation (i.e. you are teaching them something)? Are they going to use your presentation to determine whether you will get funding? Knowledge?

    • This can change the tone & style of your presentation and what information you chose to present

  4. What is my goal for the presentation? What do I want the audience to take away from my presentation?

    • Is your goal to demonstrate what you have learned? Are you trying to attain funding and want to show that your study has potential? Are you trying to teach a new topic?

    • This can change the emphasis of your presentation.

 

Answering these questions before you start working on your presentation can help you determine how to organize your presentation.

Planning Your Presentation

Some things to keep in mind...

  • Because this is an oral presentation, your audience won't be able to "go back/rewind" if they missed anything or if there was something they didn't understand

    • Make sure the content is easy to understand

    • Make sure the presentation is easy to follow and the structure is not too complicated

    • Use examples and visuals to help the listener understand

    • Repeat any important points that you want the audience to remember

  • You will cover less information when making an oral presentation than a written report.

    • If you make a script for your oral presentation, make sure you practice presenting, because you probably will go over time.

    • Be prepared to cut things out! Only include what is relevant and important for the audience to understand the topic you are presenting

  • Make sure your presentation flows! Include an introduction and a conclusion, and make sure to summarize the main points/the goal of your presentation.​​​

Practice! Practice! Practice!

  • You've probably heard it before, but practice makes perfect

  • Know what you are going to say, and make sure you know your topic through and through so you can answer any questions that may come up

  • Time yourself! Most presentations that you are going to be making will have a time limit. Make sure to practice ahead of time.

    • Keep in mind that if you are reading from a script, you will likely speak faster than if you aren't, and should plan accordingly for when you present

  • Some people speak faster when they present whereas others speak slower. Knowing which category you fall into can help you plan accordingly for your presentation

    • If you tend to speak faster when you present, try to remind yourself this while presenting to slow down your pace

    • If you tend to speak slower when presenting, make sure you account for this when you practice. You want to have at least 20-30 seconds of time before the time limit is up during your practice runs to ensure you don't go over the time limit on presentation day!

Visual Aids

  • Having too much text on a ppt slide can be overwhelming for your audience

  • Use visuals to help you present. Be sure to explain the visual in the context of your topic

  • Make sure your visuals are simple and can be easily explained. If your visuals are too busy or difficult to understand, it can confuse your audience

Presentation Day

Familiarise yourself with the equipment.

  • Try to go to the room 10-15 minutes early (or ask if you can practice your presentation in the room you will be presenting in) to make sure you know how all the equipment works so your presentation can go off without a hitch!

The Delivery

Voice Quality:

  • Volume: Make sure you are speaking loud enough so that the entire audience can hear you (project your voice)

  • Speed: Try to speak at a constant rate.

    • Speaking too fast can make it hard for your audience to understand and follow along

    • Speaking too slow can result in the listener forgetting the point you are trying to make, and can also cause them to lose interest 

  • Fluency: Everyone gets nervous and can stutter when presenting. That's okay. It's only an issue if you don't practice your presentation ahead of time and don't know what you are talking about!

  • Clarity: Not only do you need to speak loud enough so that everyone can hear you, make sure you are speaking clearly. Enunciate! 

  • Tone: Try not to be too monotone in your presentation. This can cause the audience to lose interest in your presentation!

Build a Rapport with the Audience

  • Make eye contact!

    • Make sure you are looking at the audience when you are speaking.

    • This is especially important if you have a script or notes in front of you. Make sure you look up at the audience and that you aren't just reading from your notes the entire time!

    • Also, remember that when presenting, don't focus all your attention on your professor or TA (even if they are the ones marking you). You are still presenting to your other classmates as well, and you want to make sure that you still have their attention and acknowledge them!

Body Language

  • Stand straight with your entire body facing the audience

  • Do not lean against the wall or any furniture around you

  • Keep your legs planted on the ground at all times. Try to reduce any swaying movements, shifting your weight from side to side, or nervous tapping of your foot.

Everyone gets nervous about presenting. Just remember to take deep breaths & don't worry if you make a mistake or forget a word. It happens to all of us!

© 2018 Campbell, Heffernan, & Chen
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