Guidelines for Oral Presentations
HA Program/Political Science Department, Auburn University -- Mark Burns, Instructor
1. Consider Your Audience
What is their current level of knowledge of the subject? If possible, convey to
them information they haven't heard before, or weren't aware of.
At a minimum, review your notes a few times before your presentation. Unless you
are already familiar with the presentation equipment you're going to be using,
be sure to use it in your practice so you will be less likely to have embarassing
"equipment flubs." If you have not done many presentations before,
practice before a knowledgeable friend who is willing to help you correct any
problems, or else tape or videotape your practice sessions and review them yourself.
3. Be Positive
If you begin the presentation with obvious attitudes that suggest that you're
shy, uncertain or uncomfortable, the audience will rapidly agree with you and
be turned off. If you maintain at least the appearance of confidence in
your own ability, you'll reassure your audience and everyone, yourself included,
will enjoy the presentation more.
4. Avoid Reading
Insofar as possible, give your presentation extemporaneously from notes, rather
than reading through pages and pages of material.
5. Get Abstractions Down to Earth
When you must present theoretical or abstract material, use specific examples,
perhaps including a few humorous anecdotes, to enliven the presentation.
6. Use Visual Aids
When feasible, and relevant, visual aids can be a helpful addition to your presentation.
Examples could include handouts, charts, transparencies, slides, or use of a presentation
software such as Microsoft Powerpoint.
However, avoid using extensive films or recordings which might consume over
one-quarter of your time unless such aids are explicitly requested. Your remarks,
not the audio-visual aids, should be the prime source of attention. However,
selective use of aids will increase audience attention and understanding.
7. Maintain Eye Contact
Keep as much eye contact with members of your audience as possible. Gauge their
reaction to your presentation and adjust accordingly.
If you are a shy person, one way to begin this practice is to look slightly
above the eye level of members of the audience. In most cases, they will
not notice the difference. However, there is no real substitute for developing
genuine eye contact.
8. Involve Your Audience
For large audiences, you may have to rely more on a lively presentation and on
visual aids. For smaller audiences, you may want to involve them on a more personal
Some speakers in very small settings seek to learn the names of members of
the audience initially, then directly involve them through questions to specific
individuals or by making remarks during the presentation such as "Now suppose
Maria, here, was faced with the following situation. . ."
If the standard call for questions at the end of the presentation falls flat,
you may wish, depending on the exact situation, to pose one or two questions
of your own to the audience to help them summarize or apply key points you've
9. Don't "Preach"
Convince your audience rather than haranguing them. Don't try to awe your audience
with big words, flowery phrases, or ego-inflating anecdotes ("As I once told a
friend of a friend of the President. . ."). Be relaxed, conversational (unless
the occasion is extremely formal), and succinct. Above all, be yourself.
Have ideas for other information that should be included here? Send your suggestions!
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