Below, you will find a series of video clips that model effective techniques for the different elements of an oral presentation. These resources are designed to give you ideas for how you might approach these aspects in your own presentations.
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One of the main objectives of the introduction to your presentation is to capture your audience’s attention. There are several techniques to achieve this, which can be used independently or in combination with each other. The best approach for you will depend on the topic and content of your presentation.
If your presentation centers around an extraordinary fact or scenario, you might want to open by simply making a dramatic statement, as the following two speakers chose to do:
You might also begin your presentation by inviting your audience to imagine themselves in a remarkable situation:
Some presenters try to hook their audiences by opening with an intriguing or provocative question about their topic:
If you can relate a story from your own life to your topic, you might attempt to engage your audience by opening with a personal anecdote, as in the following two clips:
Finally, if it is appropriate to your topic and your audience, you might open with a light joke. Note that in the second of the next two clips, the speaker starts her presentation by combining a question with a joke:
Citing Evidence Orally
If you wish to persuade your audience that the information you are presenting to them is credible, you must support your claims with evidence. In a written essay, you follow scholarly conventions for citing the sources for your evidence. In an oral presentation, however, you must cite your supporting materials verbally, in some cases with the assistance of a visual aid. There are several approaches to oral citation of evidence.
If the point you are making depends on established knowledge in your discipline, you might orally cite a general research trend or finding, as the following two speakers do:
Statistics are a common form of evidence for many types of presentations. You might orally cite statistics simply to provide background information to your topic, as in the following clips:
The speakers in the next two clips use statistics to support specific claims they are making. Note that both of them relied on visual aids to complement their oral citation:
Finally, if the name of the specific source for your evidence will be meaningful to your audience, it may be appropriate to cite it orally in your presentation. Both of the following two speakers cite the titles of specific publications (the speaker in the second clip also cites the findings of unspecified “recent studies”):
Using Vivid Language
Needless to say, language use—which words you choose, and how you choose to use them—is a crucial element of your presentation. Beyond simply using language clearly and accurately, using vivid language in your speech will likely make it more memorable, and thus more effective. There are several techniques for using vivid language.
If a section of your talk evokes compelling images, you might consider using words that will reinforce those images for your audience. The following two speakers do this effectively:
If you can come up with a captivating metaphor for an abstract concept you are presenting, it can help create memorable imagery for your audience. In the first of the next two clips, the speaker uses the term “ecological fingerprint” to represent the idea that products from particular ecosystems have distinct tastes or identities. In the second clip, the speaker spins an extended metaphor comparing cancer cells to murderers and gang leaders that must be apprehended:
If the topic of your presentation relates to a well-known expression, altering it subtly can help spark your audience’s interest. In the first of the following clips, the speaker makes a slight change to the saying “you are what you eat,” while the presenter in the second clip plays with the expression “a stitch in time saves nine”:
Because in-class presentations generally call for more formal types of speech than regular conversation, injecting a colloquial expression into your presentation can be an effective way to make it memorable:
Finally, if your topic relates to another culture or language, you might use words in other languages to embellish your presentation. Note that in the following clip, it is particularly apt for the speaker to conclude her presentation by saying “thank you” and “goodnight” in three languages, since her topic is bilingualism:
Voice and Gesture
While what you say—in your introduction, as supporting evidence, in the vivid language you use—is indispensable to a successful presentation, how you say it can have a big impact on your audience’s response. Effective presentation delivery depends a great deal on how you use your voice and body in relation to the words you speak.
Varying your voice’s volume and pitch, as well as your pace of speech, will help you hold your audience’s attention. If you want to emphasize a specific fact or idea, you might accentuate it vocally. Note how the following two speakers accentuate particular phrases:
You can insert pauses into your presentation to signal that you’ve concluded a thought, to allow the audience to process a point, and to underscore the importance of an idea. In the next two clips, the speakers use pauses, followed by transitional phrases, to signal to their audiences that they are moving from one major idea to another:
Hand gestures can be used deliberately in your presentation in various ways. You might use a subtle gesture to reinforce the imagery you are trying to evoke for your audience, as the following two speakers do:
If you are enumerating a list of things, you might help your audience follow along by counting with your fingers at the same time:
Finally, if you want to direct your audience’s attention to your visual aid, you might do so by gesturing towards it: