Look Up and Speak Out! Tips for Oral Presentations

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Know your Topic

One of the first tips for oral presentations, and the most important, is to become very familiar with your topic. If you have the option of picking your own topic, choose one you are comfortable with and enjoy discussing. This will enhance your presentation. If you do not have the option of choosing a topic, read the material several times and make sure you understand everything you will be saying.

No matter how much time you have to give your presentation, your topic should be well organized. Organize the topic by listing main points, with a few details under each point. This outline should be no longer than a page. Remember, speaking words on a page will take more time because you will be using complete sentences, and you do not want to feel rushed.

To grab your audience’s attention, begin your presentation with a clever introduction. You can capture the audience’s interest with a famous quote or a thought-provoking question. Humor or a personal story is also a way to convince the audience to listen to what you are about to say. The introduction should be clear and compelling, and give a brief overview of the main points of your presentation. Your conclusion should also review the main points and help the audience remember what you said.

Use Visual Aids

Visual aids, such as text, graphs, charts, and illustrations, are a great way to clarify your presentation. If you have access to computer equipment, PowerPoint allows you to design your own slides. These slides should be uncluttered with large fonts, bulleted text, and clear graphics. Dark backgrounds with white text work well because glare is reduced.

If you will be using PowerPoint, bring two copies of the electronic file to class. Load the file on the computer before class if you are allowed to do so. This may prevent technical difficulties, save you time and work, and help you avoid stress before your presentation. If you do experience technical difficulties, be sure to have hard copies of the slides to pass out so that the class can follow your presentation.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you really want to know one of the best tips for oral presentations, you must practice! Practice by yourself, then in front of family and friends. Give your presentation at a natural, moderate rate of speech. Project your voice and speak clearly. Time yourself and make adjustments when necessary.

If you are using PowerPoint, practice with your slide show and pause briefly to give your audience time to read each new slide. Do not read the slides aloud. Only glance at your slides or notes and keep your eyes on the audience. Use natural gestures and try not to turn your back to the audience. Maintain eye contact with your audience and do not get distracted by noises or movements. Expect to forget a minor point or two. The key is to practice until you become comfortable giving the presentation without thinking too much about the delivery.

One of the Last Tips: Answer Questions

If time allows, answer questions the audience might ask. Before answering a question, listen carefully and wait to respond until you are sure that you understand what is asked. Keep your answers brief and stay on topic. And, if you do not know the answer, just say so. The last question is a good opportunity to summarize your key points or reinforce your main idea.


Author’s Personal Experience