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10.3 Presenting Orally

Learning Objectives

  1. Be aware of the different choices you should make for an oral-only presentation; an oral, camera-image presentation; or an oral, in-person presentation.
  2. Understand how to effectively use a PowerPoint as a presentation tool.
  3. Know how to prepare for and give a presentation

In public speaking, keep in mind that you are trying to achieve the golden middle ground between impromptuA type of public speaking that does not require advance preparation and thus can be unpredictable and less than professional. (off-the-cuff) speaking that can lead to a chaotic and unorganized mess versus completely robotic reading from a large body of text, which will put your audience to sleep. That middle ground is called extemporaneousA kind of public speaking technique that works from a set of notes or PowerPoint slides but does not simply read those notes or slides verbatim. speaking, based on the technique of speaking from notes.

You can present orally in person or online. If you present orally online, you can do so with just sound or with the use of a camera that allows your listeners to see you. Many laptops include built-in cameras and microphones that make it surprisingly easy for you to create a social, visual presence.

Whether you are presenting in person or online, you need to set yourself up to present without having to remember everything you want to say. One way to create prompters that you can use very smoothly is to use PowerPoint slides that you can show as you talk and that can prompt your memory about what you want to say. When you use a PowerPoint in this way, you only see information your audience is looking at so you never have a problem with trying to look at your notes too much. One grave pitfall to this method is the tendency to read from the PowerPoint slides, which can be very boring for your audience, who also presumably can read. A good oral presentation from PowerPoint should be just as extemporaneous as one delivered from note cards.

If using a PowerPoint is not an option, you can present orally using note cards. When using cards, number them to assure they are in the proper order. Since you don’t want to read your cards, don’t write out your entire speech on the cards. Instead use only cues and place one idea per card so that you can turn to the next card as you transition to the next idea. On your note cards, use text that is large enough for you to easily read at a glance. On the back of the card, add additional details in a smaller font in case you must check out information beyond the basic cue.

When you use a PowerPoint, you can have built-in visuals, but when you use cards, you need to consider adding visuals in the form of items, posters, images on a computer screen (local file or one found on the Internet), handouts, and so on. Display visuals or pass out handouts when you want your audience to look at them, otherwise they are likely to be checking out your visuals when you want them to be listening to you.

Keep your audience members in mind when you plan your presentation. Based on their knowledge of your topic, interest in your topic, and attitudes about your topic, decide how basic, how long, and how in-depth your presentation will be.

The amount of preparation you put into the speech in advance will make all the difference. Allow ample time to practice your oral presentation several times. If you are presenting in person or with a computer camera, you might want to record it or practice it in front of a mirror so you can visually see how your presentation comes across and can make desired adjustments. If you have a tendency to talk quickly all the time or when you are nervous, practice talking at a slower pace so your audience will have an easier time following you. Make sure you can consistently talk loudly enough for the whole audience to hear you. If your voice isn’t loud enough, consider using a microphone since an audience that cannot hear quickly becomes unhappy.

While you are practicing, keep track of the amount of time your presentation takes so you can lengthen it or shorten it as needed to meet requirements. If feasible, stand while you present so you will make the strongest possible impression. If you are presenting in person, face your audience and make eye contact with your audience members.

Plan to open your presentation with an attention-grabbing comment, visual, activity, joke, story, or situation. If you capture your audience’s attention at the very beginning, you have a chance of keeping it throughout your presentation. On the other hand, if you lose the audience’s attention at the beginning, it will be very difficult to regain it.

Keep in mind that you do not have to share every detail of your essay in an oral presentation based on it. Choose a few highlights and focus on them in an effort to give a general idea about your work. Speak directly and personally to your audience, using first-person and second-person pronouns like “I,” “you,” and “we.” Use simple sentences that are easy to follow and include visuals of unfamiliar terms. Stay in tune with your audience so you know when they are keenly interested and would appreciate additional elaboration as well as when they are losing interest, which signals that it would be wise to move onto the next topic.

Conclude your presentation by referring back to the interest-grabbing opener or offering another appropriate anecdote or memorable quotation, phrase, comment, or image. When you finish presenting, ask your audience members if they have any questions. If possible, allow as much time as needed to address all questions. Then thank your audience for their attention to your presentation.

If you are nervous about your presentation, keep in mind that nervousness is normal and that it can help bring energy to your presentation. And implement the following ideas to help you remain calm and in control:

  • Know your material thoroughly so you can easily immerse yourself in talking about it. Then remind yourself that you know the materials and will easily be able to share what you know.
  • Write out your opening sentence or two so you get started on track even if you plan to speak extemporaneously for the balance of the speech.
  • Stay with your plan. If you nervously start talking aimlessly, you can easily find yourself beginning with points that belong in different parts of your presentation and have a difficult time getting back on track to present your information in the intended order.
  • Get all ready and then sit down and relax. Do not start immediately following a frenzied setup period.

When you are presenting online, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Practice so that your timing is smooth, you know for sure how to use the technology, and your presentation appears polished. If you are using a PowerPoint, make sure each point matches up with the PowerPoint slide that is showing.
  • Do not read PowerPoint slides. Your audience can read for themselves. Use your slides to enhance what you are saying.
  • Make sure that you have everything you need right by your computer so that you do not have to leave the computer (or the camera) at any time. You can write a script for each slide and read the script while also adding related commentary as it makes sense.
  • Keep in mind that your audience cannot benefit from any of your facial expressions or body movements if they cannot see you. And even if you are using a camera, they might not be able to see you clearly enough to get information sent through expressions or movements. So be very careful to use words vividly to convey your complete message.
  • Talk slowly and enunciate clearly to give your audience the best possible chance of understanding you. People often have trouble understanding speech over the Internet.
  • Make sure your audience members know how to get your attention during the presentation if you are planning to allow them to ask questions.
  • Look directly at the camera to give the effect of eye contact with your audience members in video presentations.
  • Keep in mind that everything you say and every noise you make, such as the screech of a scooting chair, can be heard or seen by the audience. Also, if you have a camera, remember that every facial expression and other things you do can possibly be seen.
  • Be relaxed and professional, and most of all, be yourself. You’re not filming a major motion picture or putting on a Broadway show. Think about the kind of voice and image you would want to listen to online or in person.

Key Takeaways

  • You can present orally in person, online with visuals, and online without visuals.
  • A PowerPoint can be an asset to a presentation both as an avenue for presenting visuals and as a method of having presentation cues available as you speak.
  • When preparing for a presentation, keep your audience in mind, allow time to practice, and plan for an interesting introduction and conclusion.
  • When presenting online, make sure you know how to use the technology, use a PowerPoint, take extra care to enunciate clearly, and keep in mind that your audience members can see and hear everything you do and say even though you can’t see them.


  1. Use the information in this section to complete each of these statements.

    1. A PowerPoint can be an asset to both online and in-person presentations because…
    2. If you are using note cards, you should put one idea on each card because…
    3. During your presentation, you should move onto a new topic sooner than planned if you notice your audience…
    4. You should practice both in-person and online presentations several times because…
    5. If you are nervous, make sure to stay with your plan because…
    6. You should take extra care to enunciate clearly when you are presenting online because…
  2. Watch an hour or so of C-SPAN whether live on television or by going to the massive archive of public speeches on Compare at least three speakers and determine which one is most effective at finding the “golden middle ground” of speaking extemporaneously.