The oral presentation, rather than functioning as a discrete assignment falling in the last half of the course, should be intrinsically linked to the many and varied opportunities that students have for presenting their ideas orally in the space of the classroom. Indeed, from the first day of class, students can begin to exercise their voices in a non-threatening way by means of the oral introduction of another class member. The earlier in the quarter that students can experience their own voices as helping to constitute the culture, and at times the content, of the course, the less threatening oral presentations will be later on.
The formal oral presentation, often the culmination of group work or the trial run for the final essay, should draw from and build upon previous exercises throughout the course of the quarter. If it is continuous with the discourses that the culture of the class has created and practiced, the oral presentation can serve a productive creative, collaborative, and pedagogic function.
This section was adapted from Zimmerman, Beverly B. New Perspectives on Presentation Concepts. Boston, MA: Course Technology, 2001.
On this page:
Preparing the Presentation
Because the formal oral presentation can take many forms and occur at many different times in the quarter (e.g. the beginning, middle, or end of a research project), and because planning and organization seem to be the most important factors in successful presentations, this section provides guidelines to help students prepare for their presentations and/or to help you think about how to prepare your students.
You may want to distribute such questions all at once or over a series of class periods, depending on how much hands-on guidance and feedback you want to give your students in their preparation stages.
A. Purpose and Outcomes
- What is the primary purpose of this presentation? (e.g., To provide facts, to persuade, to show how something works, to provide hands-on experience)
- What other outcomes are there for this presentation? (e.g., To collect more ideas for a research project based on audience feedback, to consider counter-arguments to your thesis)
- Who will be listening to this presentation?
- What does the audience already know and need to know about this topic?
- How will your listeners use this information? (e.g., To provide feedback on a project, to evaluate the presentation)
- What are the audience's biggest concerns or objections to your topic?
- What do you want your audience to think, know, or do as a result of this presentation?
C. Focus and Organization
- How will you focus and organize the content of your presentation? (e.g., chronologically, spatially, inductively, deductively, problem/solution)
- What are your main ideas?
- How will you support each main point? (Describe the sources you will use and/or illustrative examples)
- How will you gain your audience's attention in introducing your presentation? (e.g., anecdote, relevant statistic, quotation, rhetorical question, audience participation)
- What transitions will you use?
- How will you conclude or summarize your presentation?
- Consider the amount of time allotted for your presentation. Now go back and assess how much material you can realistically cover in this time. What will you eliminate from or add to the content or your presentation?
Back to top
Delivering the Presentation
The questions you pose to your students in the preparatory stages of the presentation lay out guidelines applicable across a wide variety of presentations. Addressing delivery strategies in your assignment gives students room to move within these guidelings.
Adapt the following categories to guide students in following your specific assignment.
A. Finding Your Personal Style
In order for students to feel engaged and interested in their presentations, they need to be given a space for adapting the presentation to their own personalities and learning styles. To encourage this, you might ask students to consider the following set of questions:
- What do you enjoy most in a presentation?
- What kinds of activities, strategies, and rhetorical styles have kept you most engaged, and have enhanced your learning, when you are listening to a presentation?
- How can you implement these in your own presentation?
B. Following Basic Guidelines
As some students will approach oral presentations with little or no formal public speaking experience, it seems important to provide them with some basic guidance regarding the following. Emphasizing these guidelines helps you talk about how oral and written discourses differ and thus addresses one tendency that students have to deliver their presentations word-for-word from a written text.
- Repetition: The general rule of thumb is that each major point should be reiterated three times (introduced, stated, and restated) throughout the presentation.
- Transitions: The connections between ideas should be made very explicit through clear roadmap-style statements (e.g., first, second, third; on the other hand, in contrast).
- Simplicity: The purpose of the presentation is not to delve into all the intricate nuances of the argument or topic but to deliver the basic ideas of the topic and points in the argument in a way that is engaging and compelling to the audience.
C. Engaging the Audience
To help students move off the page and into the space of the classroom, as well as implement their own creative styles, you could require that students incorporate a "teaching" component into their presentations. That is, students must get the audience involved in their presentations in an active way by, for example:
- Handing out an excerpt from a relevant text for audience members to close-read and comment on briefly.
- Organizing audience members into small groups to come up with ideas regarding some aspect of the topic.
- Asking audience members to fill out a questionnaire from which they will then be able to comment.
- Adapting some other classroom activity in which the class takes part on a regular basis to the presentation topic and implementing it as part of the presentation.
- Giving time in the end of the presentation (or at various points throughout) to engage in a dialogue with the audience by asking for questions and responses.
D. Using Visuals
Less is generally more. But it is also better to have something than nothing. In order to encourage students to use visuals and to discourage them from using visuals simply for the sake of using visuals, ask student to consider the following:
- What kinds of visuals (handouts, overheads, slides, computer-aided imagery) will work best for the situation in which you will give your presentation?
- What kinds of visuals will best suit the purpose and outcomes of the presentation?
- Can you present these visuals in such a way that they will add to, and not dectract from, the topic?(e.g., do you know how to run the computer equipment?)
Back to top