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The Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing
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Section 2.10.4


The most important element of an oral presentation is, of course, the content and ideas you are trying to communicate. However, the communication of content is often impeded by a poor manner of delivery. Effective public speaking involves the whole person, not just ideas. Manner of delivery includes style of speech, handling of equipment, dress, and movement.

Rehearsing Oral Presentations

You must rehearse so that your presentation will be clear, concise, and delivered in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Part of your rehearsal is the drafting and report-planning process you must go through to organize your topic, as well as the process of preparing your visuals.

Your first rehearsal should simply be a review of the order of presenting your material. Riffle through your visuals until you have an intuitive understanding of their order and of their relevance to the organization and to the purpose of your presentation.

Once you have established this intuitive flow for your presentation, try delivering a version of the complete report, noting those places where transitions or key ideas are weak. Repeat this process several times until you are satisfied that you have covered your topic clearly and concisely with language appropriate to your audience.

Style of Speech

A relaxed, extemporaneous style of speech and delivery will suit most formal and informal oral report situations. Effective speakers can deliver a presentation with great clarity yet with a relaxed and open manner. Extemporaneous speaking does not rely on a memorized text, nor is it a droning reading of a written manuscript. Instead, this style of speaking relies on visuals as cue cards. Let the main items on your overheads prompt you. If you have rehearsed your presentation, you will have a store of prepared but not stiff, memorized speech at your command. Extemporaneous speaking employs syntax close to that of conversational speech, without needless digressions or repetitions.

Extemporaneous speaking allows you to react to any audience interaction on the spot without fear of deviating from a memorized script.

  1. Identify and try to avoid your verbal tics. All speakers have verbal tics, those phrases or sounds (for example, "okay," "umm," "and") that they insert during pauses or between sentences. Verbal tics, if repeated often enough, will annoy an audience and distract them from the content or argument you are trying to develop.
  2. Speak clearly and loudly. If you cannot be heard you cannot communicate your ideas.
  3. Modulate your voice to show emphasis. Oral communication does not have access to the rich store of typographical styles available to the writer to show emphasis. You can, however, show emphasis by stressing various words or by repeating key terms both in your visual materials and in your speech. In addition, varying your rate of speech will alleviate boredom and keep your audience alert.
  4. Face the audience and establish eye contact with them. If you do not face the audience (and sometimes nervous speakers don't), most likely you will seem distracted; if you are facing the screen, you will not be audible. As you face your audience, establish eye contact with them.

Handling Equipment

Point to the screen to indicate parts of a figure. If you bend over the overhead projector and use your hand or a pen to point out parts of an overhead, you will most likely obscure the full projected image and leave your audience in the dark. Move back from the projector, stand beside the screen, and, while facing the audience, use a pointer or a hand-held laser arrow to emphasize elements of the overhead.


Avoid excessive movement around the podium. Unnecessary movements can distract the audience's attention from the content of your presentation. Similarly, a stiff, rigid posture will distance some audience members. Adopt a relaxed yet inoffensive posture at the podium. Remember, the audience is more interested in what you have to say than in you.

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