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Delivering and effective oral presentation

Delivering an oral presentation involves using key qualities effectively and developing appropriate delivery strategies.

Key qualities 

Maintain good eye contact

  • Look at each person in the room at least once.
  • Don’t stare or focus too long on one person.
  • Don’t look exclusively at the professor.
  • Look down at your notes quickly to remind you of where you are, but DO NOT read your notes!

Use you voice effectively

  • Be conscious of speaking a bit louder than you normally do: the larger the room the louder the voice (unless you have a microphone).
  • Practice projecting your voice—be conscious of pushing the sound out from your diaphragm rather than from the back of your throat.
  • Vary your pace but, as a rule, speak slower rather than faster.
  • Pause briefly before complex, unusual or very important words.
  • Modulate your voice to add interest and expression—don’t give a monotone delivery.
  • Speak clearly and limit your use of fillers (“umm”, “ahh”, “you know”, etc.).

Convey enthusiasm

  • Remember your purpose; remember who you are speaking to; remember that you want to share this information with them.
  • If you convince yourself that what you have to say is interesting, others will agree.
  • Give your voice an extra push, extra pep—this will help you to sound enthusiastic.

Use gestures naturally

  • Use gestures to emphasize and draw attention to key points.
  • Rehearse the gestures so that they feel natural—if they look forced they don’t work as well.
  • Use the ten per cent rule—if you use a lot of gestures when you speak, use 10% less; if you use few, use 10% more.
  • Avoid useless gestures that detract from your speech—fiddling with pen, tucking hair behind ears, playing with jewelry, etc.

Attend to your posture

  • Stand up straight –this gives you a more controlled appearance and enables you to project your voice better.
  • Stand squarely on two feet—don’t shift weight from foot to foot or stand on one leg.
  • If you have a podium, avoid leaning on it or clutching it.
  • Adjust the microphone before you start so that it is at a natural height for you so that you avoid slouching or straining towards it.

Watch your body language

  • Arms: don’t fold in front of you (aggressive); don’t place hands in pockets (too casual); don’t place behind back (looks and feels awkward).  A good guideline is to clasp hands loosely together in front of you.
  • Expression:  smile—people will like you more and listen better!
  • Movement:  if you want to move or pace, do (within reason); if you prefer to be completely still, do that—different things work for different people.

Strategies to help with delivery 


  • Never try to “wing” it! 
  • Be very familiar with the content and organization of your presentation.
  • “Live” the presentation for a day or two before: run it through your mind as you go about your daily life.
  • Rehearse—go through the material out loud, several times, but don’t try to memorize it (IT WILL SOUND AS IF YOU ARE READING IT).
  • Practice in front of others or alone; video/audiotape yourself, watch, listen and improve.
  • Be totally familiar with your introduction.
  • Focus on communicating ideas, not learning exact words and phrases.
  • Speak to them, not at them.

Use nervousness positively 

  • Channel your adrenaline—use it to create and sustain enthusiasm.
  • Remember that you will appear much more confident than you might feel.

Attend to your Appearance 

  • Dress to be comfortable and appropriately professional. 
  • Take a private moment to check clothing, etc., 

Use effective beginning and ending techniques 

  • Approach the podium with confidence.
  • Pause before you begin—this gives the audience a chance to calm down, gives you a chance to take a moment to clear your head.
  • Take a breath, look at the audience, and begin.
  • Conclude in a definite way—don’t leave any doubt that you have finished your speech, then ask for questions from the audience (if that is the format you are following).

Dealing with difficulties

  • Don’t draw attention to your mistakes.
  • Practice difficult words several times out loud beforehand.
  • Use positive self-talk.
  • If public speaking truly scares you, work on relaxation and visualization techniques with a counsellor.
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