Oral Presentation Best Practices

Oral Presentation Best Practices

Is it a phase review of project status and path forward? Does it have a sub-theme of a proposal? Is it a final report? Make an outline first, which ideally can be extracted from the written form of the communication process for which the oral form is intended.

• Speak clearly, and confidently (but not so confidently as to appear “cocky”) The best way to achieve the above is to ‘know your subject’ thoroughly, and through practice

• Visual support materials should be just that: “support for you message” vs. the message itself

• Visual support materials should be kept as simple as possible in helping you to make your key points and tell the story you want to tell. – One key point per slide is sufficient. Know what the key point is! – A rule of thumb for word slides is “the 6×7 rule” : no more than 6 lines per slide and 7 words per line. If you don’t talk about a point don’t include it on a slide. – Too many colors, font changes, and automation can be a distraction. – Make sure your audience can actually see what’s on the slide. Check the venue for the presentation and adjust font size, etc. accordingly.

• Speak to the audience, but when referring to specifics on a support slide, clearly identify the place on the slide that contains the information you are speaking about. Pointers, including electronic pointers help, but if you are nervous, a shaky “point” can be a distraction.

• Plan overall timing given schedule constraints. Allocate about 1 minute per slide on average, but allow more time for conceptual slides; less for transition slides. Conceptual slides include design concepts; graphs and tables; etc.

• Have professional but friendly bearing – especially when answering questions. Have straightforward and honest answers. If you don’t know – say so.

• Some things not to do: – Talk excessively to the blackboard/screen – Apologize frequently – Read your presentation



– sit down while talking – Talk in a monotone voice – Say “um” or “uh” or “like” repetitively – Discuss things you don’t understand – Speak too fast, or mumble – Try to BS your way through an answer to a question

Adapted from ppt presentation: “Delivering Effective Technical Presentations” by Dr. James Glancey University of Delaware circa 2007


There are many references on the internet on this subject that provide similar information. Listed below are a few examples. The first two are particularly extensive:

• http://www.presentation-pointers.com/showauthor/authorid/1001/ • http://www.olemiss.edu/courses/EE/ENGR695?Oralpres2000/ • http://www.me.udel.edu/old-meeg401/05/orals.pdf • http://web.princeton.edu/sites/mcgraw/oral_presentation_skills.html • http://www.catherineseo.com/cc/mmg508/powerpoint/oralpresentations.pdf

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