Significant time should be spent on the content of your oral presentation, especially because this is what you will primarily be assessed on. 

Task Analysis

Take time to read through the task sheet and identify what it is you have been asked to do.  Completing a task analysis may help you to identify the components of the task, which will help ensure that you complete these.

Audience

It is important to think about your audience/perceived audience and, in particular, to ask yourself a number of questions to ensure that you can cater for their needs and interests:

What is their knowledge base?

It is important to pitch your presentation at an appropriate level.  If you talk too simply to your audience they may get bored and the same will occur if you explain complex things to an audience who has limited knowledge of a subject area.

Why are they there?

Think about why your audience is there.  Have they been invited and are eager to hear what you have to say, or is it a case that this is a compulsory session for your audience?  This will affect the way in which you approach the presentation - in some cases you will have to motivate your audience to get involved and convince them that what you have to say is worth listening to.

Who are they?

Audience members will probably be varied but take some type to think about the demographics of the group.  Thinking about things such as gender, age and background can help you narrow the focus of your presentation to ensure that your presentation is relevant to your audience. 

Each of these things will alter how you prepare for your presentation.

Content

The content of your speech will vary depending on your task; therefore, it is important to be guided by your task sheet, your course profile and your tutor.

Generic outline for presentations

Introduction

Your introduction should be interesting enough to grab the audience’s attention.  Briefly describing the problem that your talk will address or asking your audience a question (e.g. “Who’s been frustrated by Brisbane’s public transport system?” to open a talk on transportation issues in urban planning) are effective strategies. It can also be a good idea to give your audience a brief outline of what you will cover and your objectives so they can follow your ideas whilst you are presenting. (Having an objective makes your presentation purposeful as opposed to being unfocused, i.e. simply a collection of information. At the end of your talk, is there an answer to the “So what?” question?).

Body

Ensure that each of the points you make within your presentation are directly related to the overall idea or purpose of your speech.  This will ensure that your audience will be able to identify your main argument.  Sequence your points logically and ensure that you firstly state your main points generally, then give details and examples to illustrate these main points to your audience.  After you have finished writing your speech, remember to read back over it and check that information flows logically and is linked effectively.  Click here for some common linking phrases.

Conclusion

It is important that you don’t include any new information in your conclusion, rather this is the time to reinforce your main ideas and link these ideas back to the objective or purpose of your presentation.

Outline for presenting research results

If you are presenting a poster, or explaining your research process and results, it is important to tell your audience what really matters.  Focus on what you did, what you found and what you recommend.  Avoid excess focus on methods, as it is the results and implications that matter most.  A suggested outline could be:

  1. Context and why it is important
  2. Objective & Methods
  3. Results
  4. Discussion

Audience participation

Sometimes students are expected to lead a tutorial discussion on their topic as part of their presentation.

This can be hard to do well and a LOT of thought needs to go into the best way to ask questions.

Presenters also need to be willing to wait for answers as it can take time to think of a good answer to a challenging question. Repeating the question, perhaps in a slightly different way, helps fill the “deathly silence” while you wait for responses.

Presenters also need to be aware of the differences between closed (i.e. yes/no or agree/disagree) type questions and open questions (e.g. “Why do you think that is true?” “How do you think that could be achieved?”)

Sometimes it can be helpful to start off with relatively easy questions, including closed questions, and then once participants are involved, move to more challenging questions. e.g.

  • “Hands up who thinks it would be better to do X rather than Y in this instance?”
  • “Okay, so you think it would be better to do X rather than Y. Why is that the case?”