Develop an oral presentation
Oral presentations can form a part or a whole of many assessment tasks that you will encounter at university. They can vary in format (group or individual presentations), time limit (anything from a couple of minutes to 30 minutes or even a whole hour), and formality (informal presentation to a tutorial group or a formal presentation to a whole class).
Oral presentations are similar to written assessments in their structure: there is an introduction, body and conclusion. But there are added visual elements that written assessments won’t have. Oral presentations are also designed for listening rather than reading, so a clear central message or idea will be crucial.
9 tips for a great oral presentation View
1. Practise, practise, practise
Practice is essential to presenting and speaking well. Rehearsals will give you a chance to try out different techniques. Most importantly practising your talk will help you to know your material well, and to allow you to stay on point and keep to a time limit.
2. Know your inputs
Make sure that your visual and aural inputs complement each other. Your audience will be moving between two inputs: aural (your voice) and visual (you, and any visual images you present, such as PowerPoint, video). To get your message across, they need to work in harmony, not distract from each other.
3. Relax and be yourself
Even in a formal presentation, see if you can allow your personality to come through. Your enthusiasm can help the audience engage with a topic that may not initially interest them. It’s easy to tense up and become awkward or wooden when we’re nervous, but make an effort to stay natural. Smile and make eye contact. You will establish better rapport and credibility if you are being yourself, and your audience will listen more if they can see you as genuine.
4. Have a main idea
Unlike a written paper, your audience often cannot flick back and forth between sections of your talk, refreshing their memory of what happened. Instead they will need to follow you. A way of keeping your listeners engaged and interested is to organise your talk in a clear way, perhaps around a significant main idea that you want to emphasise.
5. Use verbal signposting
Your audience will feel more comfortable if you can give them an indication of what will be coming up later in your talk. You can also link ideas or sections of your presentation to help your audience follow the overall structure.
6. Use examples, illustrations and humour
When appropriate, use interesting examples, analogies or verbal illustrations to create interest. Choose them to connect with the experience of your audience. If you’re looking for ideas, TED talks or three-minute thesis talks are a good place to start for some examples.
7. Ask questions and invite participation if appropriate
Asking questions of your audience throughout your talk helps hold their attention and interest. It also develops a connection between you and the group. Asking questions means you are inviting them to participate and drawing them into a mutual thinking process. For example:
8. Be aware of eye contact and body language
Much of what you convey to your audience will not be via your words or visual aids. The way you use your body will communicate a great deal. Making eye contact with your listeners will help you establish a connection with your audience, and give them confidence that your presentation is interesting and worthwhile. Practise confident body language: If you stand with your head held high, shoulders back and the front of your body visible you will appear positive, approachable and persuasive. If you slouch, cross your arms or ‘hide’ behind the lectern or computer, you will seem defensive and lacking in confidence. A couple of common habits that can be distracting for your audience are: putting your hands in your pockets or swaying while you speak.
9. Practise your technical skills
Virtual presentations, where you are required to present remotely to an audience that you will meet online, are becoming more common. Regardless of the mode in which you’ll deliver your presentation (i.e. face to face or online), it needs to be well-thought-out and well-structured. Therefore, virtual presentations are similar to face-to-face presentations in the way they are developed and prepared. However, there are also some differences, to do with location, use of technology and engaging your audience.
An advantage of virtual presentations is that you don’t need to be in the same location as the audience to present. However, this means that you need to do further preparation for your presentation and set up the space from where you’ll present. Here are some points for you to consider:
- Pick a tidy and well-lit space. Preferably, be lit from front and avoid places with bright light behind you (e.g. Don’t sit in front of a window where there is direct light behind you.)
- Ideally, sit in a quiet space or somewhere that background noise is minimised.
- If you are sharing the space with other people (e.g. housemates, family members), let them know beforehand to avoid any disruptions while presenting.
- Don't forget to turn your own phone silent and close any windows or tabs on your device where you may receive notifications with sound.
A big part of delivering a successful virtual presentation is being able to comfortably navigate the relevant technology and the online systems. Make sure you:
- Familiarise yourself with the technology, e.g. Check out the platform/software/App (e.g. Zoom, MS Teams) prior to your presentation
- Have a reasonable familiarity with it and try out the features that you need to use on the day of your presentation, such as muting/unmuting, stopping/starting video, sharing your screen and accessing the chat box.
- Don’t forget to check your device and make sure it’s functioning properly (e.g. the microphone and webcam are working).
- Learn how to turn your smartphone into a hotspot and use your mobile data to connect your computer to the Internet in case you have issues with your main Internet connection during the presentation.
- Before presenting, close all other pieces of software/applications/activity on your device that need high bandwidth or memory (e.g. downloading/uploading large files) to minimise connection issues.
Engaging your audience can be challenging while delivering a virtual presentation because you can’t rely on body language and non-verbal cues as much as you do in face-to-face presentations. Also, it may not be easy to gauge the audience’s level of engagement if their video is turned off and you are unable to see them. However, there are some strategies that can help you keep your audience interested in your presentation:
- Keep your presentation concise and to the point as people are more likely to quickly lose attention during virtual presentations.
- Divide your content into meaningful chunks and make sure to transition from one topic to the next smoothly by appropriate signposting.
- One way to maintain the audience’s attention is to ask questions from time to time and get them to respond via chat, through online polling (e.g. Zoom Polls, Poll Everywhere, Padlet), non-verbal reactions, or giving them the option to unmute and talk.
- Using engaging visuals, streaming a short video or an audio clip relevant to your topic can also help you to maintain the audience’s engagement.
- Another strategy to keep your audience engaged can be getting them to summarise your main points/take home messages in a few dot points and post them in the chat box.