Chapter 9: Oral Presentations

9.2 During the Presentation

Arrive early to class (or come to the classroom earlier in the day, if you have another class directly before your presentation). Do a dry run of your presentation. Cue up any slides you may be using so that you can immediately access them at the beginning of your presentation, rather than trying to load or display them once class has already begun. This often wastes valuable minutes of class time for your classmates and is easy to avoid with a little advance planning. Ask a tech-savvy classmate to help you before or to advance the slides during your presentation.

Practise standing in front of the empty desks, choosing where you will stand so as not to block any visuals you plan to show the class. If you are using slides, put the deck into projector mode and advance the slides. Make sure they project properly—classroom systems vary and can be finicky. Click on any links to videos or other material you may have embedded in your slides to make sure they work. If not, you can manually cue up the material and switch between slides and your browser to show it to the class.

If you are running a video, check that the sound is turned up and that you can hear the soundtrack. If you need any outside technical assistance, call for it now. Many schools have an IT department that can send someone to troubleshoot any issues with classroom machines and help to set up. If your school does not, a classmate with IT experience might be willing to help.

During the presentation, face the room and look at your classmates when possible. Speak loudly and slowly enough that they can hear you and understand what you are saying. If you are using slides, refer to your printout rather than turning to the projector or looking at the computer screen. Although many students refer to their phones when giving presentations, looking at your notes this way gives the impression that you are uninterested in and unengaged with your audience. Keep your arms at your sides, not folded or crossed in front of you, to project an open rather than closed attitude. Although you are the one speaking, you are engaged in a dialogue with your classmates in which they are expected to listen, understand, and respond to your material.

Table 9.1 Dos and don’ts of oral presentations
Things to always do Things to never do
  • Stand facing your audience.
  • Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Ask questions.
  • Answer questions.
  • Incorporate activities.
  • Make use of props.
  • Multiply learning (visual, movement, slides, handouts, etc.).
  • Mumble, face the screen, wall, or computer, look at your phone.
  • Read slides word for word.
  • Incorporate typos into your slides.
  • Quote others word for word in your slides without attribution or quotation marks.
  • Rely on the audience or your instructor to determine your presentation’s structure. (Example: “So what do you guys think? What should we do next?”)
  • Use inadvertently sexist language. (Example: “So, guys …” [in a class with women in it])

Review Questions

  1. Create a presentation on a topic of your choice. Practise the presentation in your classroom, if possible.
  2. Have a friend video you giving a short presentation. Check the video for practices you may not have noticed—hand movement, for example, that distracts rather than engages your audience.


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Building Blocks of Academic Writing Copyright © 2020 by Carellin Brooks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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