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Oral presentation is a short talk where you show your knowledge on a particular subject and deliver an address to an audience. It is also the process of speaking to a group a people. Oral presentation skills can be learnt by anyone and these skills can help you deeply if you wish to perform well in the future. Most importantly, oral presentation can really help you to improve your social skills where you can enhance your self confidence and deal with any situation. Oral presentation also can heighten your academic and professional skills because it can be used in different ways and different stages or contexts especially in academic and business context. Furthermore, oral presentation will help to improve your leadership skills as you need to learn how to present yourself to audience.
In a university or college, students are always required to give oral presentations in the classroom and during seminars. The ability to demonstrate effective oral presentations is very important to their further academic success. In order to become professional presenters, they need to enhance their academic and oral skills when preparing presentations. Ferris (1998) surveyed 683 foreigner English speaking undergraduates and postgraduates in an American university and the results show that 70% always, often or sometimes had problems in formal speech. Most students lack self-confidence to give oral academic presentations, especially for learner presenters. Therefore, the strategy students use in preparing presentations is very important. Oral presentation skills include topic choosing, effective visual aid, an appropriate speech opening and organization of presentation among other things. As graduate students need to give an oral presentation in the classroom and seminars, it is important to know that successful presentations depend on skills and strategies they use.
In recent years, the English language has become the most important mode of communication in the world because English is spoken by more people than any other language. In order to sound educated and literate, people need to thoroughly study English. English is also usually used for communication in universities and colleges. Most lectures are conducted in English and the students need to be more involved in understanding English so that the learning process more effective. Therefore, with having proper English, the student can focus on their learning without being hindered by lack of communication skills.
Nowadays, we must use proper English and good speech if we want to advance in the professional world. While working in any field, one has to be professional and studying English is important in order to gain a good career in your life. One has to attend training classes for English where one can learn more words to expand ones vocabulary. Having to learn more words makes you able to pronounce them with ease and that can make your communication and speech skills better. While studying English at school, college or university, it is impossible to get an ‘A’ grade in English, in terms of communication, if you cannot speak the language. Spoken English is used in the best careers, the best universities, and is increasingly being used at job interviews.
Speaking in a formal academic context
Speaking within the academic context is becoming an important as teaching methods change to involve more joint projects and group marks. It is therefore important to try to be more aware of what is involved in seminar or group activity and to learn some of the interactional language that is used there. It is important to practice making presentations, taking part in discussions on academic topics and so on. As a university or college student, you are learning how to speak formally with your lecturers in the classroom. Learning how to speak in formal term can avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding. Moreover, understanding the characteristics of communication may also help you to become a better communicator in your college, personal life and professional career.
Below are the “dos” and “don’ts” in a speaking in a formal academic context;
- Speak in a proper English
- Speak loudly and clearly. Sound confident.
- Speak slowly to get understanding and respect for what you are saying
- To make your audience feel involved, use your eye contact and body language
- Don’t speak in broken English
- Don’t mumble and sound not confident
- Don’t read word by word from your text
- Don’t waste your audience’s time by speaking about something which is not relevant to the topic
- Don’t hide behind something and cause the audience not to be able to see you clearly
As we understand, there are many definitions of communication. Carl Rogers (1952) defined communication as listening, understanding and interpreting the message; Elizabeth Tierney (1998) defined it as you deliver the message, audience receives, reacts and responds to your message; Julia Wood (2009) defined it as delivering a message through symbols to create and interpret data and Joseph Devito (2009) said that communication is a process where one person or more sends and receives message, distorted by noise, occur within a context, have some effect and provides for feedback. In summary, the definition of communication is the process by which information is exchanged between senders and receivers with the aim of achieving mutual understanding. In communication, there are three models which are;
Linear Model – Views communication as a straight line where communication process is only in one direction. Laswell’s (1948) designed communication using the one way process; Shannon and Weaver’s (1949) added noise as a component between senders and receivers.
Interactive Model – Schramm (1955) shows that there is still a sender, receiver, message and noise but receiver providing feedback to sender. Both take turns to speak and listen to each other especially in their field experiences.
The third model communication however is the one that is most often used;
Transactional Model – Wood (2001), shows that the elements in communication are interdependent. When we look at people talking to each other, it is easy to see that while we do take turns, sometimes we talk simultaneously or we may talk to one another. David Worley (2008) said there is no time laps sending and receiving message in transactional model. People send and receive message simultaneously, act as senders and receivers at the same time at least two places at once. In the transactional model, two people communicate with multiple messages through what may be multiple channels and with parallel messages. As with other models, the messages may be distorted and the people may be distracted, resulting in misunderstanding that fuels and hinders the model. We often speak in a transactional way, where we exchange messages. In doing so we may also be exchanging values to one another, for example in a greeting where each person gives the other a sense of comfort through a defined transactional ritual. The actual transaction can be highly dependent on context. For example the transactions between people at home is often quite different between those at work or on the street. The transactional character between teacher and student is worth noting. They influence each other. We have all had teachers that seem to treat us with disfavor. The result is that we may react negatively to being treated as such. Ironically, the negative responses reinforce the teacher’s original attitudes and expectation. This is also quite evident in children/parent relationships. Parenting is not based just on what parents think they should do. Children influence parents just as much as parents influence their children.
Public speaking is the way of delivering a speech in front of an audience. Speaking in front of a group of people takes a lot of bravery and detailed preparation. To be a good public speaker one needs skills and strategies. Public speaking skills are the key to success in almost any profession. Public speaking skills are important not only in making professional presentations but also to build professional network. Whether it is small talk or academic presentation, the ability to present oneself effectively is a deciding factor of career related success in academics. With a few strategies, it is possible to reach the set goals respectively.
To make the presentation effective, the presenter must consider a few elements and the most important element is the audience. You need to know your audience’s characteristic and the diversity of the audience. It is very important to know your audience in delivering your speech. Before the speech, you will analyze your audience more than while you are actually presenting the speech (Grice & Skinner, 2007). The types of information needed in audience analysis are stated as below;
Age – to consider the age range because there is a need to use information that is familiar to the listeners;
Gender – men and women share a broad range of experiences and different socialization, topic can be made relevant to both genders;
Education – the audience has a variety of educational backgrounds and it is can affect the topic chosen to spoken about and how to approach the topic;
Professional – the audience has a variety of professional backgrounds. Needs to know the job requirement for each employee and not confuse a topic with a professional function;
Level of Knowledge and Experience – the presenter must know the knowledge and experience level of the audience so that the presenter can better focus on the presentation and deliver information using the right level of detail.
Languages – It is an important medium of exchange between presenter and audience. Do not talk down to the audience and avoid oversimplifying the examples. The choice of language will either benefit or interrupt learning. If the latter occurs it could obstruct the interaction between you and an audience (Garmston & Wellman, 1992).
Preparing an oral presentation
Delivering an effective oral presentation needs good preparation. Preparing for an oral presentation is as important as delivering the presentation. If your preparation is not good enough, your goal for your message to be clear, organized and well thought out cannot be achieved. In order to prepare an oral presentation, you need to;
Choose a topic that you are understand and are familiar with and your audience can easily understand. Study your topic and use other sources such as internet, books, articles and experts to enhance your presentation. The topic should be interesting, easy to search and locate reliable sources.
Verify the purpose of presentation because oral presentation has so many topics and varies. It is depends on the message that you will deliver.
Analyze the audience and know their expectations. Think about their age, values, gender, education and knowledge level.
Structuring your presentation – structure your presentation by giving an introduction, main ideas and conclusion. Structuring your presentation can avoid confusion and frustration to the audience.
Introduction – inform your topic and explain to the audience what your presentation will cover. Provide an outline of the main points. You also can provide any necessary background to make your presentation more interesting. A good introduction will capture an audience attention.
Main ideas/content – develop your main points and give an example and evidence. Make sure that your information is well-structured and provide clear connections between main points, explanations and examples.
Conclusion – summarise your main points and do not give any new information in the conclusion. Restate the main points to show that you have covered all the points and achieved your aim to deliver the message effectively. Invite the audience to questions and re-answer the question.
Organize the topic’s information and your material, write a draft and summarise it in card notes. You must be able to understand your card notes in order to deliver them to an audience. Make your card notes easy to see and read. Use your card notes as a guide to help you remember what needs to be said. Think about the length of time you have to speak and the amount of information you can include.
Plan and prepare your visual aids. Learn the use of Powerpoint well before your presentation. Do the simple visual aids and do not confuse your audience with unnecessary use of animation, sound clips or colors which are not connected to your topic. Examples;
Your visual aids should help the audience understand the topic better.
Rehearse your presentation in an environment that is similar to where you will be giving your presentation and get its length right. Practice in front of your friends or family and use your visual aids. You also can tape yourself so that you can identify your areas of weakness and improve on it. Practice and time your presentation by using a stopwatch in order to make sure that your presentation does not exceed the time limit or is too short.
Making an effective oral presentation
Making an effective oral presentation involves focusing on the needs of your audience, careful planning and good delivery of your speech. An important step when you give your presentation is how you introduce or begin your topic of presentation. The introduction is important because it is used to lure audience to listening to what you have to say. The purpose is to catch the attention of your audience. Make your introduction as brief as possible because long introductions tend to bore the audience. The main aim of speech introduction is to introducing speech topic and its purpose. Begin your introduction speech with the following;
Greet your audience with a sincere smile. It should start with a courtesy greeting such as “good morning, ladies and gentlemen”. Introduce your name again even though you are already been introduced. Saying your name personalizes things and affords you some time to focus your thoughts on your speech. The first line must contain information about you.
Ask the audience a rhetorical question. Do not expect it to be answered by your audience. Actually you use the question to set the outline for your speech. You give an answer and then build the interest.
Make a very controversial statement. Start your speech by telling the audience something that they do not know. It can be an interesting statistic or a controversial idea. Provoking the thoughts of the audience will keep them interested to hear your upcoming speech.
Give a definition of an expert to enhance your credibility. You also can use definitions from dictionaries or other authoritative sources. If you use this technique make sure you find an interesting definition and deliver it with impact.
Ask a proactive question which allows the audience to become part of the speech. You are sure of grabbing their attention with a question especially if it is related to the subject matter of the presentation. Starting your speech with a question helps to engage your audience mentally as they will seek to find answers to the question you asked even if you do not specifically request a response from them.
In your presentation, when presenting the content or the middle of your speech, you need to respect your audience’s aptitude for facts, figures and data without patronizing the audience with gimmicks. You need to deliver the information they want to hear such as the definition of terms, describing the situation, facts, figure, references or examples.
Concluding speeches are also very important in your oral presentation. A good conclusion sensibly reinforces your ideas and enhances your speech. You can conclude your speech by a restatement of your speech, summarize main points in a brief and concise manner and use references but do not use the same device in the conclusion.
When you are presenting in front of your audience, it is very important to know how you are being perceived. Below are the tips on how to make your presentation more effective;
Body Language – adopt a confident posture. Walk confidently to the stage for your speech. Standing, walking or moving around with arms relaxed at the side
Appearance – Dress professionally depending on where you are presenting. Be aware of your dress according to the dress code of society who will be your audience. Dress nicely and groom yourself before make the presentation
Voice – speak in a loud, clear voice with correct pronunciation. Use standard language to make sure that your audience will understand clearly and deliver the message effectively. Adjust your voice accordingly to make sure that everyone can hear your speech. Avoid speaking too fast or continuously without pause. The pause can allow yourself and the audience time to reflect and think.
Oral presentation plays an important part in the assessment especially in the academic context. It is an effective tool to support your success in your future career. Oral presentation skills can enhance your confidence level to become a better communicator in college, personal life and professional career. To make sure that your oral presentation is effective, it is so important to plan the presentation with good preparation. Be well organized and confident of the content. Be aware of your body language when presenting your speech. Be an effective presenter by planning your speech, preparing good visual aids and understanding clearly all areas of the presentation.
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