How to Prepare a Presentaton – Part 3 of 7



You should practice your speech at least once before you present it.

Practice in an environment that is as similar as possible to where you’ll be giving the presentation. Practice in front of people (or a presentation coach) and use your visual aids.

Your talk should be a combination of entertainment, information, and intellectual stimulation, all delivered with a spontaneous and comfortable feel. The following guidelines will help you achieve this:

Do not memorize a paper and deliver it verbatim. You may want to memorize certain small sections, and you will want to know the order of your presentation by heart, but the goal is to sound natural. Reading lines does not sound spontaneous unless you’re a really good actor.  And even then you need a great director.  So just talk to an individual member in the audience as if they’re your friend and move on to the next, and the next, keeping eye communication.

Write in large, boldface letters, regardless of whether you use note cards or regular paper for your notes. In order to engage your audience, you should look up from your paper or notes several times during the presentation, and you don’t want to lose your place when you look back down at the text. Using note cards makes it easier to find your place, but some people don’t like flipping through cards.  BETTER YET, practice speaking without notes, or just one card with points on it.  You’d be surprised how many people know much more than they think they do and need just minimal reminders.  Again a coach is a good person to see before that big speech.

Try recording yourself and listening to the tone, pitch, and speed of your voice. Work on sounding natural and relaxed.  Most speakers talk too fast and don’t ennunciate properly.  Some  use their “speaking voice” instead of their natural voice.  Tell a story to a friend of a fun trip you had.  Now realize that’s exactly how you should sound in your speech.

Pause naturally as you would in conversation.  AND DO pause.  Put them into your speech and mark them.  Pauses help the audience catch up with the thoughts and give you a chance to breathe, which you should be doing.

Practicing your speech out loud can help you clarify your thoughts. As you practice, don’t be afraid to add ideas or change what you’ve planned.  And ALWAYS say it to someone.  You want the energy going out not in.  And “in” is what happens when you re not focused 100% on your audience, listenting to them.

You may want to add directions on your notes like “slow down,” “look at the audience,” and “remember to pause.” These will remind you to do the things that are sometimes hard to remember during the excitement of speaking in front of a group.

If you’re going to use any kind of equipment, make sure that everything is in working order before you arrive for your presentation. Try to anticipate what problems might arise, and how to solve them. For example, “what will you I do if the computer crashes?” Or, “what will I do if the person who speaks before me takes up too much time, and I have to shorten my speech?” Be prepared for all the possible things that can go wrong.

If you’re not giving your presentation in a familiar location (like your classroom), check out the space before the day of your presentation so you know how big the room is and what kind of technical options are available (and functioning). Will you need a microphone? Is there an Internet hook-up? Do the electrical outlets and lights work? How are they controlled? If you will need a projection screen, is there one already in the room? If so, how does it work? These are all important details.


You should use different language for an oral presentation than you would for a research paper.  A speech should not sound as formal as a report. Remember that you’re talking, and that people will respond better when the language is familiar. Here are a few ways in which oral communication differs from written (Dodd, 1997):

  • More audience-specific
  • More interactive
  • More immediate
  • More personal
  • More informal
  • More opportunities to use visual communication

Not only is the style of a presentation different from that of a paper, but the language is as well. Here are a few considerations for phrasing your oral presentation:

  • Use conjunctions-they sound more natural
  • Use vocabulary that will be understood. Your audience won’t have time to look up unfamiliar words.
  • Use enumeration to tie your points together. (i.e., First I would like to discuss this issue. Second …)
  • Use parallel construction in your phrasing to help the audience follow what you’re saying.
  • Use personal pronouns and refer to yourself and the audience.
  • Interject ideas and comments-make it personal!
  • Ask occasional questions.

With all of this advice about what you should say, it’s easy to forget one of the most important tips of all-do not be afraid of silence! Pause occasionally.  AND BREATHE.

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