Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Guidelines for Oral Presentations

Guidelines for Oral Presentations
Presentations are brief discussions of a focused topic delivered to a group of listeners in order to impart knowledge or to stimulate discussion. They are similar to short papers with an introduction, main body and conclusion. The ability to give brief presentations is a learned skill and one that is called on frequently in the workplace.

Preparation is the key to giving an effective presentation and to controlling your nervousness. Know your topic well. You will be the expert on the topic in the classroom. Good preparation and the realization that you are the expert will boost your self-confidence. After your research, you will find that you know much more about your topic than you will have time to present. That is a good thing. It will allow you to compose a good introduction, to distill out the main, most important points that need to be made, and to finish with a strong conclusion.
Know your topic – become an expert
Learn as much about the topic as you can to boost your self-confidence
Have an idea what the background is of your audience is so you will know how much detail to go into and what kinds of things you may have to define
Prepare an outline of topic. Bullet or number the main points
An 8-minute talk is roughly equivalent to 4 double spaced pages in 12-pt. font and 1” margins - however, never read a presentation. Write out your presentation if you need to organize your thoughts, but then outline this text for the actual presentation.
Visual aids
Visual aids (maps, photos, film clips, graphs, diagrams, and charts) can enhance a presentation.
Keep visual aids simple and uncluttered.
Use color and contrast for emphasis but use them in moderation
Use a font large enough to be seen from the back of the room
A rule of thumb: slides are readable from the back of a room if they are readable at a distance of 9 feet from a 15” monitor
For an 8-10 minute talk use no more than 10 slides or overheads
If using PowerPoint, strongly resist the temptation to use sound effects and dramatic slide transitions
Important! If you use PowerPoint or other equipment, you should provide advance notice, at least two days notice in advance of your presentation.

Handouts provide structure. They can provide supplemental material, references, a glossary of terms, and serve as a record of the presentation. The handout should be attractively laid out and inviting to read. Leave enough “white space” on the handout for the listener to take notes.

A handout should be 1-2 pages long and consist of:
Your name
Title of course
Date of presentation
Title of your presentation
Brief abstract (50 word summary of your presentation)
A brief outline of your presentation including the major points
A bibliography of references used to inform the presentation
Important! A handout is optional for the presentation but it may be helpful. If you would like to provide a handout, I can arrange for duplicating but you must provide it at least 48 hours in advance of your presentation.
Practice giving your presentation to yourself. Speak out loud and time yourself. Practice using your visual aids. It is absolutely important that you adhere to your time limit. Your professor knows that you know more about your topic than you will have time to share. Your goal is to inform, not overwhelm. In this case, less can be more.
To deliver your presentation you will have to overcome your nervousness and deal with room conditions. Good preparation should allay most of your nervousness; realizing that everyone feels nervous before a presentation should also help. Your presentation will never go exactly as you think it will – fortunately, they usually go better than you expect. However, if you are using any kind of technology (overhead projector or PowerPoint) be prepared for something to go wrong and have a backup plan.

Equipment tips:
· Workout details with equipment before the day of your presentation
· Know how to operate the equipment you choose to use
· If you are using PowerPoint, have a backup copy on a disk
· Consider making overhead transparencies of your PowerPoint slides in case there is a problem with the technology
· Consider making print duplicates of your slides or transparencies in case there is a problem with electricity or bulbs
· Do not expect a network connection to work when you need it. Have any web sites you hope to show available as offline copies on a disk. Work offline whenever possible to avoid slow network response
Delivery tips:
Begin your presentation by telling your audience what your topic is and what you will be covering. Audiences like to have a guidepost.
Avoid reading your remarks
Dress neatly and appropriately. The rule of thumb is to dress one level nicer than the audience will be dressed.
Do not wear a hat of any kind
Speak in a clear, audible voice – loud enough to be clearly heard in the back row. Never, ever mumble
Stand up straight, don’t slouch or drape yourself around the podium. Don’t be afraid to move around the room – moving around is good, it causes the audience to pay attention
Don’t rock back and forth on your heels, don’t tap a pencil or play with pencil or pointer – don’t do things that will distract from your content.
Never apologize to your audience for the state of your knowledge or your degree of preparation. The audience wants to have confidence in you – you are the authority, do nothing to undermine your authority.
Never mention anything that could have been in your talk but wasn’t
Make frequent eye contact with the audience. Really look at the audience as you talk to them. Engaging them directly with your eyes transfers a bit of your energy to them and keeps them focused on your content. Making eye contact says that you are in charge of the room and for a presentation – that’s what you want.
If you use slides or PowerPoint avoid the tendency to speak to the screen instead of to the audience. Be so familiar with your visual aids that the only reason you look at them is to point something out.
Never turn your back on the audience and try to avoid walking in front of the projector
Adhere strictly to your time limit. Organize your main points and rate of speech so that you speak for your eight minutes. You will be surprised how quickly the time goes.
At the conclusion of your presentation ask for questions. Encourage questions with your eyes and your body language. Respond to questions politely, good-humoredly, and briefly. Take a quick moment to compose your thoughts before responding if you need to – but do not fill the moment with uh….
At the end of your presentation, summarize your main points and give a strong concluding remark that reinforces why your information is of value.
Show some enthusiasm
A note on fear and nervousness
Accept nervousness for what it is – part of the preparation for speaking and it is a good thing. It heightens your senses and gets your blood pumping. You will think clearly and move faster. Everyone will feel nervous. A good preparation will increase your self-confidence. Once you get going, your good preparation will kick in and before you know it, your presentation will be over.
The role of the audience
Presentations involve both a speaker and the audience. People in the audience play a role in how well a presentation goes. People in the audience have an obligation to:
Listen politely
Make occasional eye contact with speaker
Take notes or jot down interesting facts
Control negative facial expressions
Control bored body language
Do not put your head down on the desk or tilt your head back to sleep
Control the impulse to constantly check watch
Expect a Question & Answer period to be part of the presentation
Participate in Question & Answer period – either by listening or by posing a question.
Prepare to remain attentive throughout the Q&A – speakers will dismiss their audience
Remain seated until the speaker is finished
Presentations always undergo some type of evaluation. You may receive a grade, you may “make the sale”, or your performance may be reviewed by your colleagues. The following is a set of evaluation criteria (D'Arcy, 1998) that are commonly used. Keeping a possible evaluation in mind is a good way to prepare for your presentation. Your goal is to be effective and evaluation criteria can give you a roadmap for measuring your effectiveness.
A. Organization and Development of Content
Opening statement gained immediate attention? Purpose of presentation made clear? Previewed contents of speech? Main ideas stated clearly and logically? Organizational pattern easy to follow? Main points explained or proved by supporting points? Variety of supporting points (testimony, statistics, etc.) Conclusion adequately summed up main points, purpose?
B. Delivery
Presenter “owned the space” and was in control? Held rapport with audience throughout speech? Eye contact to everyone in audience? Strong posture and meaningful gestures?
C. Visuals
Visuals clear and visible to entire audience? Creative and emphasized main points? Presenter handled unobtrusively and focused on audience?
D. Voice
Volume Rate (pacing) Pitch Quality Energetic and included everyone in dialogue?
E. Comments
Evaluation criteria from: D'Arcy, Jan. 1998. Technically speaking: a guide for communicating complex informaton. Columbus: Battelle Press, p. 160.