Delivering Oral Presentations

There are many strategies that can help you become more effective at giving oral presentations. Most people feel uncomfortable speaking in front of an audience. Preparation and practice are the keys to making it a whole lot easier.
 
 
Student at home with magazine and laptop

1. It’s not about you

Your audience is interested in what you have to say not in how you look.

Focus on helping them to follow your ideas or argument and on presenting information in a way that helps them ‘get it’.

Concentrate your time, energy and skills on how best to get your message across.

 
 

2. Planning

What is the key message you want your audience to take away from your presentation? Why are you giving this presentation? What is your aim? Why is the topic interesting and why is it important? If you had to explain the whole presentation in one short sentence, what would that be?

A clear, logical structure will help you get your key message across. Design one that draws attention to your main points and which helps you lead the audience through the presentation.

Tips:

  • Start with a brief introduction. Tell the audience what to expect and when (don’t confuse them by doing something else unless it’s for impact).
  • At the end of the presentation remind them of the main key points, why it’s important and future implications or the ‘take home’ message.
  • PowerPoint: do not use too many slides, fonts, graphic effects, colours, or too much text

 
 
Students sitting in a lecture theatre

3. Help the audience

Who are they? Amateurs or experts, academics or the general public?

How formal or informal should your language and presentation style be? Present your material in an order that is easy to follow.

Think about both clarity and impact.

Try out a few different ways to do this before settling on the most effective.

 
 

4. Practise, practise, practise

Read out loud several times to discover what is and isn’t working.

Slow down! Plan where to stop and breathe. Imagine yourself delivering your presentation really well, with a smile, and receiving applause!

Practise on friends or record yourself.

 
 
Student delivering a presentation

5. Delivery

You may find it hard to believe that although some people don’t look it, most are as nervous as you.

You’ve spent a long time researching and preparing this (hours? days? weeks?) – your presentation might only last 5, 10 or 20 minutes. Not long, is it? Stick to your plan. Focus on the message and remember how you delivered it ‘at rehearsals’! The more you practise the easier it will be.

Remember that this is your time and that you are in charge. Make sure they get your message!