Oral Presentations

The speech is the core of an oral presentation — talking to an audience about a subject. Keeping the following things in mind will make the experience easier:

Know your subject matter Know your topic well – it’s easier to talk about something you fully understand. If you know what you’re saying, then you’re less likely to stumble and you will feel more positive about the experience..
Read from something Have notes written down, but don’t read them word for word. An audience will engage more with you if you’re able to make eye contact. Try elaborating from dot points, or use cue cards held in your hand. Practise using your notes before the speech.
Stick to a
Like any other assignment, presentations need structure. Listeners can become frustrated by an unstructured presentation. Try dividing your points into sections, with some sort of introduction and conclusion that flow logically.
Use clear and simple
A successful presentation shares information, and doesn’t bewilder the audience. Accessible language will allow a broader audience to understand you.
Involve the audience It’s not mandatory, but inviting audience participation in a presentation generally makes the audience more attentive. Involving the audience can be a good way to hold their attention. It can be as simple as directing questions toward them.

Supporting material

The supporting material can help to emphasise your key points, or portray information in a different way. There are many different tools you can use in a presentation, but some won’t suit every task. Be sure that support materials are permitted by checking the assessment details in your course description.


This is the popular option, but there are a few important things to remember. In brief, less is more with PowerPoint presentations.

  • Only put essential information on the slides. The slides complement what you are saying and should not duplicate your speech. The audience will simply read it, and then your role is pointless.
  • Avoid distractions. Busy or fancy presentations will draw the audience’s attention and you’ll be ignored. Keep the slides simple.
  • Have a plan B. Technology can fail. If you’re designing any kind of presentation involving technology, bring a back up. You could bring a USB with your presentation on it, or print the slides, or take cue cards.
  • Set up beforehand. Aim to finish setting up for your presentation before you start speaking. Check that everything works and that you have everything you need.

Read more about creating a PowerPoint presentation.

Posters & e-Posters

Posters are not suitable for all situations. Your audience will need to have the chance to read them in detail, so posters can be impractical. However, they can work well if they reflect the structure of your talk and elaborate on certain factors.

If you use a poster to highlight certain sections of your speech, then a PowerPoint presentation can give you the same effect. Apply the same rules as you would to a PowerPoint, as above.

Download our helpsheet on creating an e-Poster.


Showing a video can emphasise a point well, but it must add to your presentation. Use only short videos and only one or two – as it’s not your own work, it will not count towards your grade. Videos are not often embedded into PowerPoint presentations as a means to either demonstrate a point, or to provide a (brief) interlude to refresh your audience’s attention. Check that the technology (internet) works beforehand.

Read more about creating a video yourself.


The rules here are similar to using video: only use it if it emphasises a point. Don’t use it just to fill in time or do your work for you, because you won’t get many marks for it. And check that the room can actually play audio before you commence.


A demonstration can be a way to involve the audience, especially if it calls for their participation. However, keep the set-up time low, or people may resent the effort you’re asking of them. Demonstrations are useful to explain something physical, or to explore a hypothetical situation. Naturally, you will need to consider if there will be enough willing participants.

Download our related helpsheets: