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Strategies for an effective oral presentation

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I have heard that the “fear of public speaking” is one of the most common phobias people experience. The way that you get better at public speaking however, is facing this fear and practicing this skill which leads to improved confidence and therefore speaking performances. Now I know many of you will be preparing for the VCE English oral presentation so I decided to provide a write some strategies to help you through this challenging task.

One of the most important and obvious aspect being having a good knowledge about the topic of presentation so topic selection is crucial, if you have the option. If you do, pick a topic area that you are interested in, or particularly passionate about, as this will come through in the presentation.

Know the criteria and what are you being assessed against. Is it to educate the audience? Is it to present an argument using evidence? How long is the presentation? What resources can you bring to support? Do you need to engage and interact with the audience using questions, or not? Will there be question time at the end?

Brainstorm or mind map and outline the issues and sub-topics are related to your presentation then write out a detailed response for each sub topic. How do the sub-topics or arguments link together? You may need to re-arrange your points accordingly. Give more practical examples (use of visual aid for assistance is the best) and where relevant use your views and experiences.

Conduct a thorough research of the topic at hand. This can be done by using internet resources such as Wikipedia, How stuff works and e-how but preferentially should be completed using the library and periodicals such as magazines and journals. You could also interview experts in the area for more information by phone or personally. You should always be armed with a list of questions or sub topics that you want to address prior to the researching so that you are focussed when scouring for information. Be critical of internet websites as they can be authored largely without any accreditation so misinformation is rife on websites, even large ones like Wikipedia, so check a number of websites to authenticate the validity and usefulness of the information researched.

How much does your audience know about the topic? This is important so you can pitch the content at the right level.

Be aware of the timing, location and the other details of the presentation. Conduct a trial run with friends or family prior to the presentation to check the timings, flow and pronunciation of difficult or technical words. Also, avoid using words you don’t yourself understand. Scientific terms in particular can be difficult to pronounce and even harder to describe if questioned about it. Like a well seasoned comedian or stage performer you need to rehearse the timing and the delivery to find the best way to make an impact.

How will you link your paragraphs so that your presentation flows? Is their a logical flow between points ie- does one point lead to another? Can you use words like furthermore, additionally, however, not only will…etc.? Know your environment and resources: where will you be, what resources will you have (any visual aids etc) and be early to get yourself familiarised with the environment.

Your introduction sets the tone and standard for the remainder of the presentation. Always greet the audience with a smile and the appropriate greeting for the time of day. Your non-verbal body language communicates more than your verbal language so have fun and let your personality shine through. Try to avoid long sentences or clichés, which divert the attention from your quality content.

You audience (in fact all audiences) consciously or otherwise will ask “what’s in it for me?” of WIIFM. Try to generate enthusiasm and interest in the topic area and reason why this topic is important to them. Emotive language can be used to persuade and should be used sparingly to steer the audience’s opinion towards yours.

If you feel nervous look above the head level of the audience as eye to eye contact can be quite intimidating. For those of you that have the tendency to rush through the oral presentation take a slow deep breath in and out prior to beginning. Don’t be afraid to move around. A good presenter will move position to engage their audience. Use of visual cues such as power-point slides and cue cards can be useful however you shouldn’t just read the information directly off of the slides (commonly known as “death by power-point&rdquoWink or word for word off the cue cards. Use them as a dot point summary to guide you from one point to the next.

When you are speaking use inflection, change the volume and tonality as well as the speed of your communication. Provided your audience is interested in the topic at hand by adding variability to the delivery using the parameters just mentioned, will only add to the quality of the presentation. Additionally, effectively pausing between significant points can add time for information to “sink in” and can also be an invaluable strategy when used sparingly.

Summarise and conclude by drawing your final points together to re-emphasise your argument or contention, if required. Ensure that you conclude by finishing your presentation within the allocated time. Quantity should never be more important than quality so “less is more”, if that makes sense. Do you need to provide a reference list? If so, simply writing Wikipedia or Google.com is insufficient. Provide an accurate list of resources used to assist your presentation.

Finally probe the audience for questions and feedback and be direct when responded to their questions. If you’re not sure the answer to their question, say so, but then provide what you believe would be the appropriate answer based on your knowledge of the area.

Hope this helps. Please let me know your thoughts by rating or commenting below.

Cheers,

Heath

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