Making Oral Presentations by e2855f5b


									Laurea U.A.S.                   GUIDELINES
Laurea Leppävaara               00463 Business Communication Skills

Mike Vollar                     August 2008

Laurea U.A.S.                                        GUIDELINES
Laurea Leppävaara                                    00463 Business Communication Skills

Mike Vollar                                          August 2008


              1. Introduction

              A common mistake is to “jump” straight into a presentation at high speed without giving
              the audience adequate preparation for what’s coming, and before they get used to the fact
              that a new person is standing in front of them with a new subject. So try to begin
              confidently and clearly without rushing. Don’t get down to solid facts before you’re sure
              that you’ve got your audience’s attention, and that they have some kind of picture of what
              to expect in the next 10 minutes or so.

              Typically, the introductory section of your talk will include the following 3 elements:
                     a brief explanation of who you are, what the subject is, and possibly why you are
                      talking about this particular subject.
                     a statement of the objectives of your presentation, in other words what you plan to
                      achieve during the next 5 minutes/ half an hour/ or whatever.
                     a brief outline of the main points you plan to cover during your talk. Be careful not
                      to go into any more detail than is necessary at this stage.

              2. Content

              It’s difficult to give black-and-white advice about content which would be appropriate in all
              situations, but careful planning is what makes a difference, especially with regard to the
              time frame you’ve been given. If your presentation is noticeably shorter it leaves an
              unsatisfactory feeling, but even worse is to go significantly over time. This shows a
              disrespect for your listeners, even more so if you are just rambling, wasting time without
              presenting much solid information at all. Audience time is valuable time.

              So at an early stage of your preparation you need to map out what areas you feel you need
              to cover, including the introduction mentioned above. As you prepare, keep an eye on the
              overall balance of the content and on whether there is any superfluous information - don’t
              be afraid to leave it out if time is short. During the preparation phase, your task is to

              Check also that you are presenting your information systematically within a framework that
              is gradually revealed to the listeners, in other words that you progress clearly through a set
              of points. You need to avoid wandering around aimlessly, leaving the listener wondering
Laurea U.A.S.                                        GUIDELINES
Laurea Leppävaara                                    00463 Business Communication Skills

Mike Vollar                                          August 2008

              what the point of all this interesting information is.

              Partly for this reason, you need to create links (sometimes called “road-signs” or, more
              officially, metatext) between one small information area and the next. This is more
              important than in written material, where an overview of everything on the page can be
              taken in at a glance with possible section headings for further guidance, but in oral work
              there is a clear need for such bridging phrases as “Now that we understand how … works, “
              or “Let me next describe how ….” or “I now want to move on to ….”. The listener needs to
              be given a feeling of where we are coming from and where we are going.

              No presentation is complete without some kind of conclusion. This doesn’t need to be
              anything very dramatic or significant, sometimes just a quick summary of what’s been
              covered will be enough, but all too often students finish a talk by working through the last
              main point, and then simply walking away or collapsing into embarrassed silence. You need
              to create a clear feeling of having now arrived at the end.

              3. Language

              Most people when preparing a presentation rely fairly heavily on external sources such as
              Internet documents for the facts, information and data which they are going to present. If
              you simply lift the language of the original document into your presentation too, the result
              is almost always weak, possibly disastrous. There are two main reasons for this:

                     the register (meaning the style or level) of the language is unsuitable for this task
                     the language is “dead” or inexpressive, too divorced from you the presenter.

              So even though you’ve borrowed the information from an external source, it’s very
              important that you present it in your own words, and in a lively and interesting way so that
              it sounds and feels like you are thinking aloud. It’s almost impossible to genuinely contact
              an audience if you are reading a prepared script, even one you have written yourself. The
              only thing that really matters is the effect your words are having on the audience.

              As a general rule, if you’re unsure of your language skills and are afraid you might not
              manage, it’s important to be fully confident of the information you’re planning to present
              to us, and then let the words take care of themselves. They will come, even if not exactly
              as planned. It’s not a crime during a presentation to have to think aloud while searching for
              a word or how to explain something, as long as you don’t overdo it.
Laurea U.A.S.                                        GUIDELINES
Laurea Leppävaara                                    00463 Business Communication Skills

Mike Vollar                                          August 2008

              Here is a list of points to keep in mind when planning the language of your presentation.

                     Your language doesn’t need to be perfect as it does in a written document. Instead
                      you should concentrate on making the language interesting and alive.
                     Use notes to guide and remind you, but never a ready-written script and never a
                      text written by somebody else. Keep the notes as minimal as you dare, for example
                      on Keycards.
                     Keep the language on a level which your audience can handle, in other words don’t
                      let it become too technical or complicated. This is an oral situation.
                     Make sure there is some variety in your language, so not all short simple sentences,
                      and not all heavy complicated sentences.

              4. Delivery

              The key point in your delivery is to keep in mind how things look from the listener’s point
              of view. If the way you are handling things wouldn’t keep you interested either, then you’re
              not doing a good job. There’s no point in expecting an audience to come to a lecture hall
              and listen to a presentation, if you don’t offer them something more and different from
              what they would get by reading the text themselves at home. You therefore need to pay
              attention to the following factors :

                     Volume. Most students aren’t used to speaking publicly and so speak much too
                      quietly. Aim at somebody at the back of the room and speak loud enough that
                      he/she can listen to you comfortably. On the other hand, bellowing is also
                      undesirable unless your intention is to intimidate your listeners.
                     Intonation and expression. Speakers use this to create interest and also to highlight
                      key words and ideas. Without it a spoken text quickly becomes monotonous and the
                      listener finds it difficult to separate ideas and phrases from each other. Typically
                      Finns use a minimum of intonation and English people a lot, but in any case students
                      need to practise using it as a tool for creating interest.
                     Pauses. As with intonation, use pauses to help the listener to follow the structure of
                      your sentences. Avoid rushing forwards at the same pace all the time.
                     Speed. Not too fast and not too slow. Students rarely talk too slowly unless they
                      don’t know what they are trying to say.
                     Short phrases. In an oral presentation the listener only gets one chance to hear
                      information, so as well as keeping an eye on the speed, you also need to keep
                      phrases short enough to be digested and even to use repetition, for example saying
                      the same thing twice in different ways (as I have just done!) to drive the point
Laurea U.A.S.                                       GUIDELINES
Laurea Leppävaara                                   00463 Business Communication Skills

Mike Vollar                                          August 2008

                      home. This doesn’t mean that sentences need to be short.
                     Pronunciation. This isn’t a coffee-table chat, so be sure to enunciate everything
                      more clearly and carefully than normal, especially when you have a noticeable
                      foreign accent in English.
                     If at all possible, try to cut out such natural sounds as “er” and “um” and replace
                      them with a “thinking-aloud” short phrase.

              5. Body language

              This is something most people would prefer not to pay any attention to, or to pretend that
              it doesn’t really matter. It does. As with meeting people face to face, first impressions are
              very important. Most audiences will be very sympathetic towards a new speaker but you will
              find it easy to destroy this sympathy totally in about 2 minutes if your delivery and body
              language are wrong. The following is a list of matters which actively need attention before
              you arrive in front of your audience, as you might not even be aware of them yourself.

                     Standing. Except in very special circumstances you obviously can’t give a
                      presentation sitting down. You need to project an image of authority and
                     Eye contact. You need to show the audience that you are interested in them and
                      that you have something to communicate to them, so don’t keep your eyes fixed
                      downwards or on the piece of paper in your hands. It’s often a good idea either to
                      talk to a point at the back of the room, or to direct your words to one individual
                      who changes fairly often so that your staring doesn’t become threatening or too
                      personal. But keep those eyes up!
                     Facial expression. Not too passive or you’ll look disinterested. Don’t let your face
                      show them the truth, that you’d rather be somewhere else! And remember
                      (especially Finns) that in Anglo culture a small smile represents a neutral attitude
                      whereas a passive expression is already a negative comment.
                     Personal space. Whether you like it or not, you are in control of the whole situation
                      during your presentation, and your body language must confirm this. Come out and
                      stand clearly in front of the group, taking care that you don’t give the impression of
                      hiding behind a desk, projector, screen or even window curtain (I’ve actually seen
                      this!) Define a not too extensive area at the front of the room that belongs to you,
                      and remember to move around inside that area, but in a slow, controlled purposeful
                      manner otherwise you’ll destroy the focus. Just don’t stand like a lamp-post in
                      front of us!
                     Gestures. Be careful with your hands, they tell too much about you, so try to avoid
Laurea U.A.S.                                         GUIDELINES
Laurea Leppävaara                                     00463 Business Communication Skills

Mike Vollar                                           August 2008

                      fidgeting with papers, pens, pointers etc. It’s often acceptable to have one hand in
                      a pocket (or resting on a desk, holding a card etc) but an equally good idea to use
                      the free hand to demonstrate to a certain degree. But unless you come from a
                      Latin-type culture it’s best to avoid anything too dramatic with your hands. Keep in
                      mind that with your palms towards yourself, you project an image of self-
                      consciousness, while with your palms turned outwards you are creating a line of
                      contact with your listeners.
                     Posture. Without overdoing it, stand straight and tall. Signal that you are worth
                      listening to. Feet planted firmly and confidently on the ground.
                     Dress. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie, but you can’t avoid the fact that the
                      way you are dressed gives a clear indication of your attitude towards this
                      presentation. So within the limits of your own generation and culture, be smart,
                      tidy and stylish. In the same way that humour is a risky tool that too often has the
                      opposite effect of what was intended, so wearing a scruffy cap signals that your talk
                      shouldn’t be taken seriously.

              6. Visual aids.

              As a general rule, it’s almost inconceivable that you can talk effectively to a group of
              people for more than 5 minutes without using some form of visual aids. There are two main
              reasons for using them, and a good talk will usually combine both. First, visual aids
              reinforce memory by helping the listener to focus on the main points and the overall
              scheme, and secondly they provide variety and relief from the non-stop flow of information.

              Visual aids can take many forms, but the most common is slides, either on a data projector
              using Powerpoint or on the overhead projector. First-class professional performers can give
              a very interesting presentation without using any slides at all, but from your point of view,
              if you choose not to use them in your presentation, then your instructor has a right to ask
              why you chose to do so.

              Here are some key rules for preparing slides:
                     Keep it short. As a rule of thumb, no more than 5 lines per slide, and rarely more
                      than 5 words per line. So headlines rather than full grammatical sentences.
                     Use a large clear font. People at the back of the room need to be able to see it, so
                      size 16 with boldfacing is probably the absolute minimum.
                     Don’t overdo colour for text slides. An unobtrusive background colour only, and be
                      sure the text stands out clearly enough from the background.
                     Don’t have a huge number of slides. It’s almost always more effective to have
Laurea U.A.S.                                        GUIDELINES
Laurea Leppävaara                                    00463 Business Communication Skills

Mike Vollar                                          August 2008

                      fewer, and to leave them in view for a bit longer, e.g. a few minutes. If you can cut
                      out one or more slides, then do so.
                     When presenting charts or statistics, keep them simple enough to be visually
                      understandable, and remember to guide the audience in how to look at them. It’s
                      easy to forget that when seeing statistics for the first time, it takes time to see
                      their significance.
                     Risks. It’s amazing how often students turn their back on their audience and start
                      addressing the talk to the wall or screen. You shouldn’t ever totally break eye-
                      contact with your audience. Another danger is to stand in the light from the
                      projector, so that a magnified profile of you or your hand – which unfortunately is
                      trembling slightly from nervousness – is projected for all to admire.

              And finally, don’t forget that you are the one who is responsible for the well-functioning of
              the equipment you use, and who will pay the price if it doesn’t. A presentation really isn’t
              the right forum for learning how to switch on or focus a projector, and even one minute
              spent waiting for your computer to boot up and then for Powerpoint to load can be deadly
              from the point of view of audience attention. (Only English teachers have the right to stand
              helplessly in front of a class and expect someone in the class to come and sort things out for
              them!) So get to the room early so you can check things and have everything ready to go
              once “the floor is yours”. If the technical aspects are too much for you to handle when
              you’re already nervous about the presentation itself, then arrange for an assistant to
              change slides and so forth for you. You’ll need to agree on what signals you’re going to give.

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