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