Effective oral presentations: plan, prep and practice


Photo of hand holding a microphone

Ten percent of the population are genuinely terrified of speaking to a group, according to Forbes.

But a slightly more surprising statistic is that ten percent of the population love public speaking. Who wouldn’t want to be one of those people?

That leaves most of us in the middle of the spectrum. We aren’t terrified as such, but suffice to say public speaking gives us butterflies, sweaty palms and maybe even a sleepless night before the big presentation.

There are many strategies you can employ to help ease your nerves. But nothing beats planning, preparation and practice – lots and lots of practice.

Planning

The first thing you’ll need to need to do is analyse the assignment question. Like any assignment task, it’s important that you understand what you are being asked to do by gathering all the relevant details, deciphering the task and breaking it down into mini questions that you can answer.

Make sure you understand what you need to include in your presentation. For example, do you need to demonstrate proficiency in Microsoft PowerPoint? What are the key features of the program that you need to demonstrate proficiency in?

And what about audience participation? Are you required to develop an interactive activity for your audience? All of this should be detailed in the course profile and/or marking criteria. If in doubt, ask your lecturer!

Preparation

Presentations follow a similar structure to written assignments. So just like an essay, a case study or a literature review, you will need to prepare an introduction, body and conclusion. Head to the Study Smart module on Writing your assignment to find out what each of these entail.

And remember, it’s important to reference any information you use at university. So be sure to include a reference list in a PowerPoint slide or print handout so your audience can source the information for themselves (and your lecturer can see that you did your research!). Head to the Study Smart Referencing module to find out the essentials of referencing.

Practice

Practicing your presentation is extremely important. Try practicing in front of friends, other students, your dog or cat – or even the mirror! This will help you to remember the content and structure of your presentation, and to prepare for audience participation and activities.

Palm cards with a list your key points (not your entire speech), can also aid your memory.