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Planning and designing your oral presentation


  • Analyze your audience—Who are they? What do they already know? What do they need to know?
  • Define your purpose—What do you want to achieve in the minds of your listeners?
  • Review the presentation guidelines such as essential requirements and time constraints.


  • Organize your topic material hierarchically into major and minor points. Use this map to decide how much detail to include/leave out during the presentation.
  • Decide on the order in which to present points— this may depend on an already established format you have to respect. If not, structure your presentation around the key questions a listener would want answered in order to be able to understand your presentation. These might be questions like:
    • What is your topic /area of study?
    • What is the main question or issue you are trying to explore?
    • What has been the most important research in the field on this topic (literature review)?
    • What did you do (re research, interviewing people, etc)?
    • What did you find out (results)?
    • What didn’t you find out (limitations)?
    • What do you plan to do next?

Develop your introduction, body and conclusion

  • Introduction:  Explain what you will talk about; give an overview of the presentation.
  • Body: Cover the information required to answer your key questions (above).
  • Conclusion: Sum up and point to the future in some way: next step, future directions, etc.

Decide what visual aids to include and what they should look like

  • If using PowerPoint, go for a simple but professional appearance.
  • Give each a slide a title.
  • Don’t include too much detail — no more than six points/bullets per slide.
  • Choose graphics, figures, illustrations that support rather than distract from your content.
  • Adapt graphics etc. with the audience in mind—if they don’t understand them, they are not helpful.
  •  Be prepared to lead the audience through a complex visual with the aid of animated stages, colour coding, a laser pointer or other type of aid.
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