Oral presentations

This resource describes what oral presentations are and suggests strategies for effective planning and presentation

What is an oral presentation?

Oral presentations, also known as public speaking or simply presentations, consist of an individual or group verbally addressing an audience on a particular topic. The aim of this is to educate, inform, entertain or present an argument. Oral presentations are seen within workplaces, classrooms and even at social events such as weddings. An oral presentation at university assesses the presenter’s ability to communicate relevant information effectively in an interesting and engaging manner.

Group presentations

In some instances, you may be required to present as part of a group to test your ability to work as a member of a team. Working within a group can sometimes be a challenge or a great success. To understand how to effectively work in a group, take a look at our Group Work resource.

  • Divide the topic of your presentation into subtopics, and allocate one to each group member. Doing this will ensure that the workload is evenly shared and that everyone takes part in the assessment.
  • Rehearse together as a group. Although it may seem easy for each group member to go off and cover their own section alone, not having regular group meetings or rehearsals will cause your presentation to appear disjointed.
  • Ensure the presentation is consistent by using a consistent style for your visual aids. If the visual aids your group uses are not consistent in format, colour and font styles, it will be clear to the marker that you have not been working as a team.
  • Use a cloud-based service or platform to create your presentation. Most cloud-based services and platforms have functions that allow you to work on materials remotely from one another. Check out our digital presentation resources to learn more.

Planning and presenting an oral presentation

Planning your oral presentation

 The most important factors for a successful presentation are: careful planning, lots of practice and engaging the audience. It's a good idea to watch some professional presentations online to get a sense of what good speakers do.

  • Review the subject outline. Look for all relevant detail that you will need to understand the requirements of the task, including when it is due, the weight of the assessment, and the length of time you have to present. Review the assessment criteria. What are you are being assessed on?
  • Analyse the task. Determine the purpose of the presentation. Do you need to answer a specific question?
  • Consider the audience. What are their expectations of your content and delivery?
  • Brainstorm. Map out everything you already know about the topic. Write out any ideas you can use to interact with the audience, or engage them, and jot down what questions, explanations and information you want the audience to be provided with.
  • Do the research. Find relevant material, take notes, and remember to keep the references you used.
  • Organise your ideas. Create a logical presentation so the information flows well.
  • Pay attention to the language you are using. Presentations should be delivered in spoken or conversational language rather than written language. Spoken language is much easier for your audience to follow.
Image transcription
  1. What do I already know?
  2. Plan
  3. Practice
  4. Present

Audience interaction and engagement

Even if it isn’t a specific requirement, it is good practice to engage the audience and/or to have them interact during your presentation. Examples of ways to ensure audience interaction are:

  • Asking questions, testing the audience, providing a quiz.
  • Allowing the audience to ask questions.
  • Providing handouts – consider a ‘fill in the blank’ document that goes hand-in-hand with a slideshow or the information you are presenting.
  • Asking someone to volunteer if there are demonstrations.
  • Providing small gift bags with information and some lollies.

Using visual aids

In many oral presentation assessments you will be allowed or required to use visual aids, such as slides, images or props, to add an interesting feature and engage the audience. Keep your visual aids clear and to the point, and ensure that they are easily readable by your audience.

NOTE: Don’t forget to save your visual material on a USB flash drive so that you can easily access it through the class computer (if applicable), and have a back-up if you need to submit it in class or print it out.

Preparing to present

 Once you have completed writing your presentation – remember, this needs to sound like spoken language, not written language! - and have finalised your visual aids, it is time to practice the presentation. When practicing your speech consider these aspects:

  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Don’t read off your palm cards.
  • Maintain eye contact with the audience.
  • Maintain good posture so you can be clearly heard.
  • Use natural hand gestures.
  • Use a natural tone of voice.
  • Practice to improve your confidence.
  • Practice pronunciation of difficult words by breaking them into syllables.
  • Be mindful of your body language.
  • Time yourself to make sure you are within the time limits.

It is also important that you use this time to make sure that you are fully prepared. Do you need to collect props? Have you thought about how you will access your visual aids?

Image transcription
  • Write your speech in dot points
  • Practice reading aloud
  • Understand the topic and material, learn the information in your speech, don’t just memorise it, this way your presentation sounds more authentic
  • Remember to smile
  • Give handouts with more information

On the day of your presentation

On the day of your presentation, you might feel anxious or nervous and that is completely normally. Have confidence in your ability, the presentation you have planned, and the preparation you have done!

Further resources