Tips for Oral Presentations

Notes

Plan a note taking system that will work for you when you are standing before an audience with your knees shaking, your throat dry, and your eyes blurry. Some speakers work well from an outline on a pad of paper; some write their whole talk out and virtually memorize it; some work well from note cards. 

Introduction

Think hard about your first words. You will want to frame your talk with a purposeful introduction and provide clear verbal signposts along the way. How will you pull your listeners together and set them up for the talk? Remember, they haven't been thinking about the subject at all, so your first words will have to organize their thoughts as well as yours. Giving them context for your work will help them understand your presentation more easily.

Conclusion

Think equally hard about a good way to wrap up your talk. What last words do you want to leave your audience with? If you have planned your conclusion carefully ahead of time, you will be able to retrieve it even if you become flustered in the middle of your talk.

Time

Practice your talk aloud so you know you will stay within the time limit. Emphasize the most interesting aspects of your work.

Stance

Decide how you will use your body during the talk. Will you stand or sit? Are you comfortable using gestures to help you? Do you have any annoying or distracting mannerisms that you need to control?

Voice

Practice and experience will help you learn to control your voice. Are you speaking too softly? Too loudly? Mumbling? Are your words and sentences clearly enunciated, with clear beginnings and ends? Are you speaking too quickly or too slowly? Learn to project; your words need to reach your audience. 

Interacting with the Audience

Allow yourself to be aware of your audience. Look at them; talk to them. Warm them up. Some speakers ask questions of the audience, or ask them to think of something on their own. ("What is your earliest childhood memory?" "Have you ever had this experience: XXXX?").

Visual Aids

Many presentations require visual aids, especially as you move into the work world. Eventually, you will want to think about how visual aids can help make your point. You will need to learn to design effective slides and transparencies and to handle equipment.

Source: Adapted from the Ruhlman Conference Web site

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