Oral presentations provide an essential method of demonstrating the results of your learning or research process. In the social sciences, where communication with people is a central issue, oral speech is recognized as a necessary academic skill. The success of your oral presentation depends on how professionally and effectively you can narrate, organize, and demonstrate the material. In this guide, you will learn how to prepare for making a public address, organize your material, and deliver it in a manner that will help you achieve your goals.
Step 1. Preparation
Always consider your audience
You are unlikely to gain any attention or credit for inappropriately addressing the needs of your target audience. For example, when presenting research results to college students or a group of professors, you will likely choose a different style, structure, and delivery depending on the audience. Thus, it is vital that from the start, you consider your audience, including age ranges, professional occupations, and the level of information your listeners have on the topic you intend to present.
Establish goals for your speech
Without a proper motivation or aim, your speech will probably meander through a collection of disorganized facts, leaving your audience unenlightened regarding your intentions. Therefore, next one to consider is the goal or goals for your speech. These may include but not be limited to informing, motivating, or convincing. Keep your goal in mind throughout the process of arranging the content and delivering it to the audience.
Create effective notes
While it is not usually acceptable to confine yourself to reading from your notes during an oral speech presentation, it is appropriate to use brief notes with key information or a structure to remember. If you rely solely on your memory and eschew written assistance, you may forget to address crucial topics due to nervousness or distractions. Thus, it is also an excellent practice to include important names and spellings of terms you will use, or leave blank spaces to be able to edit the note before the speech if it requires immediate changes.
Step 2. Content Arrangement
Write an outline
An outline that has a clear structure including an introduction, body, and conclusion will, in most cases, become a solid framework for delivering your thoughts or results of your study. A speech that follows a clear structure will serve your aim better than a simple list of facts or items you would like your audience to know. As the outline stage is generally a continuous process, it may be necessary to include blank spaces or rearrange the content to achieve the best possible composition.
In the introduction section, similar to the introductory portion of an essay, you need to concisely present the background for your discussion topic, let your audience know why it is worth speaking about and researching, and explain the point of your presentation. It is also important to give your audience a preview of the structure of your speech and the topics included. Thus, the purpose of an introduction is to grab the listeners’ attention. After all, one of your goals should be to spark your audience’s interest in your material.
The body should present a logical order for your claims in defense of your main argument, supported by evidence. Using examples to illustrate various points can be helpful in informing or convincing an audience. Ensure that you present your material coherently, connecting each point to the next and employing clear transitions. This section should take up most of your presentation time in order to cover your topic sufficiently.
In the conclusion section, sound academic practice suggests that a concise summary of all presented material can help the audience revisit the material they have just received for better retention. Thus, you should restate the purpose of the speech or research with reference to how it was achieved so that the oral presentation reaches a logical end. When wrapping up a speech, be aware of the use of transitional words or phrases to mark this section, such as “in conclusion.” If the format of the presentation permits, you may thank the audience for lending you their attention and welcome their questions.
Step 3. Summarize your ideas
In each section of your speech’s framework, you need to begin with a short synopsis of what you achieved or want to deliver. Oral presentations in an academic environment are allocated a limited amount of time, so there is a need to deliver your content and achieve your goal in a concise manner. In addition, lengthy thoughts can be difficult to follow, and you may risk losing your audience’s attention or creating confusion. However, it is also important not to shorten the ideas excessively and to always ensure the completeness of the message.
Step 4. Support your content with visual materials
As a majority of information is perceived and understood visually, you as a presenter may need to address this in your speech by including some material that the audience can see. This will help the audience follow your narration and perhaps discuss some of your points after you have finished the presentation. It may be tempting to place text on the presentation slides and read from them directly, but it is best to use bullet points, pictures, graphs, and other illustrative materials. The reason for this is that the audience may cease to pay attention to you, instead reading what you have written on the slide. To address that, you need to include only the key information in bullet points (if you include text at all) that you also explain in your speech. When using video or PowerPoint presentations to assist you in a speech, you must refer to and interact with it to truly utilize its potential. Otherwise, it will only serve as a distraction and will detract from your speech rather than assisting you.
Step 5. Delivery
Create text for a speech, not for reading
The oral presentation format requires the speaker to deliver material intended to be listened to, as written text may be comprehended poorly within the limited presentation time. Given the differences between written and oral speech, you might need to use shorter sentences in order to be easily understood. Even if you are presenting research results to academics, there is no need for excessive use of terminology. However, you should avoid using colloquial language in order to remain within professional boundaries.
Highlight key ideas
To make sure the audience remembers the core parts, you may use memorable quotes, images, varied tone of voice, or language constructs. All of these techniques can help you emphasize the items the listeners need to remember. While the summary and restatement of goals in the conclusion section assists in this, using additional aspects of delivery for the most important points is rarely excessive. It ensures that the audience understands why these ideas are critical, without which you risk failing to achieve your presentation goals.
Demonstrate the mastery of oral communication
You should consider practicing delivery of the material to an audience beforehand, paying particular attention to the tone of voice, volume, speed, clarity, and other parameters. It is crucial to speak at a normal—or even slightly slower—pace to ensure everyone has the time to comprehend the information you relay. Here you need to accept the notion that not everyone might be equally knowledgeable of the topic you present, so by keeping an average pace of delivery, you will be considerate of their level of understanding. Pausing after key moments may also be appropriate in oral presentations, as it aids the audience’s comprehension.