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MHS Library | Oral presentation help

Welcome to the MHS guide for Oral Presentations.
If you need one-on-one help with oral presentations, including feedback on your practice run,
you can contact me (Tania Sheko) or other teacher librarians (Ms Morscheck or Ms Hawtin) in Teams or email me




oral presentations


Giving presentations

​​​​​​Preparing your presentation

  • It is difficult to take in a lot of detailed information when listening. Therefore, it is very important that your presentation has a clear structure so your audience can follow it.
  • In a 10-15 min presentation you will only have time to make 3 or 4 main points. You will have more impact if your points are clear, simple, relevant, and direct. Beginning: Introduce yourself.
  • Outline the aims of your talk and what you will cover in the presentation. Start with an attention grabber, such as a picture, an everyday example, or a rhetorical question.
  • Middle: Your points should lead logically from each other. What does the audience need to know first in order to understand your subject? Then what do they need to know? What evidence will you use to support these points and convince the audience? Have clear sections or headings to structure the middle section and lead from one point to another. 
  • End: Avoid introducing new information at this point. Summarise the main things you want the audience to remember. End positively with a strong concluding sentence, not an apology. Leave time for questions. If you are presenting to an external audience, have your contact details available for people

Thinking about your audience

  • Who will be in the audience? Students, lecturers, fellow researchers, experts in the field, business people, general public, a mixture?
  • Consider your purpose – to inform, show progress, persuade, sell, disseminate results, teach, or introduce a new idea?
  • Will your presentation be an overview, basic introduction, develop an existing idea, go over old ground from a new perspective, summarise information, challenge beliefs, or show something new?

What to avoid

  • The most common mistake with presentations is trying to cram in too much information – you either end up talking too fast, or overrunning the time limit.
  • Keep to 3 or 4 main points with an introduction that sets out the contexts and a brief summarising conclusion. You can always expand on these if there are questions afterwards.

Notes, cue cards and visual aids

  • Many people are tempted to write their presentation out fully and read it aloud, but this isn't enjoyable for the speaker or the audience;
  • it is hard to get vocal expression and connection with the audience when reading aloud, and a written script is often more stilted and formal than natural speech.
  • A better idea is to speak normally and use notes to guide you.
  • If you use visual aids, keep them simple and make sure that they support and add emphasis to your argument – not distract the audience from what you are saying.

Overcoming nerves

  • Most people are nervous about speaking in public. 
  • Being well prepared and taking control can help to defuse these concerns.
  • Practising will give you more confidence about your timings. If you're using visual aids, check them carefully – make sure you are familiar with any technical equipment or have assistance.

Engaging the audience

  • Take control of the room – signal the start by introducing yourself, and the end by thanking the audience and sitting down.
  • Smile – you will feel better instantly, and the audience will warm to you.
  • Make eye contact - looking up and out at the audience will help you create a connection.
  • Making eye contact also means you can check the audience's reaction. If they are looking puzzled, you may want to slow down and explain more.
  • Be aware of your body language. Standing up straight, facing the audience, and looking welcoming can make a big positive difference.


  • Getting your timing right is absolutely vital
  • Practise your presentation aloud.
  • Try to speak clearly and at a natural pace.
  • Don't be tempted to speed up to fit things in – think in advance about what you could cut out if you're overrunning.
  • You can use pauses to emphasise important points or changes in subject. 

Dealing with questions

  • It is a good idea to prepare for questions. Think of likely topics or types of questions people may ask, and how you might answer them.
  • You may drop a hint in your presentation, such as "you can ask me more about this later…" if there is a particular area you want questions on.
  • When you're answering, give yourself time to think by using phrases like "That's a good question, I haven't considered it that way before…", or "Could I get back to you on that?"
  • Remember that you are in charge – you can ask people to repeat the question if you haven't heard it, or politely ask for clarification if you're not sure you've understood it.

(Summarised from Study Advice Guides, University of Reading)