Designing Effective Oral Presentations
Oral Presentations (Page 2)
Presenting to a Multicultural Audience
The ability to speak effectively is as crucial as the ability to write effectively according to studies about kinds of communications most often required of employees.
During a routine week, employees will actually spend more time speaking than writing; using the phone; conversing informally with colleagues, subordinates, and superiors on routine office topics; conducting meetings; working in problem solving groups; conducting employee evaluation sessions; participating in teleconferences and sales presentations; and frequently becoming involved in formal speaking situations before groups inside and outside the organization. Communication research also reveals that the higher an employee moves in an organization, the more important speaking skills become.
The purpose of this section of the OWL is to provide you the basic strategies for presenting technical and business information in an oral presentation. You will use many of the same strategies in developing an oral presentation that you use in preparing an effective written document. Understanding similarities between writing and speaking can be helpful for several reasons. Many times, you will be asked to document an oral presentation you have given; that is, you must submit what you said in written form. Or, you may be asked to make an oral presentation of a written document.
Understanding the Speaking/Writing Relationship
Being an effective speaker and an effective writer requires you to
Because listening is a different processing method than reading, you will need to know how to adapt guidelines for organization, style, and graphics to fit the speaking situation. However, you will see that writing and speaking are, nevertheless, similar communication activities.
Analyzing the Situation
Analyzing the situation is often difficult to separate from analyzing an audience; in a sense, audience is one facet of the larger situation. In analyzing the situation, you need to know why your presentation is required.
For example, delivering a presentation at a regular meeting of project directors is different from briefing other people in your team about what you've been doing. Making a presentation at a company picnic is different from delivering a presentation at the annual meeting of a professional society whose focus is on current issues in a discipline.
Analyzing the Audience
Just as readers determine the success of written communication, audiences determine the success of oral presentations. Writing or speaking is successful if the reader or listener responds the way you desire: the reader or listener is informed, persuaded, or instructed as you intend and then responds the way you want with good will throughout.
Just as writing effectively depends on your understanding your reader as thoroughly as possible, effective speaking also depends on your understanding your listener.
To achieve your purpose for communicating, you must present your message appropriately. Technique counts.
When you analyze your audience, focus on their professional as well as their personal profiles. Your audience will pay attention to some things because they're members of a department or class; they'll react to other things because of their likes, dislikes, and uncertainties. You have to keep both profiles in mind. Your analysis will suggest what you should say or write, what you should not say, and the tone you should use.
Audience Analysis Questions:
In viewing this list, you will note the prevalence of questions on attitude--the audience's attitude toward you as well as the subject. Some attitutes will matter more than others, according to the situation.
Determining the Goal of Your Presentation
Oral presentations, like written presentations, must be designed around a specific purpose.
As a writer and a speaker, you must know your purpose.
You must conceive your purposes in terms of your audience's perspective. Like the report or letter, the oral presentation must make purpose clearly evident at the beginning. By knowing what they will be hearing from the beginning of the presentation, the audience can more easily focus their attention on the content presented and see connections between parts of the talk.
As you plan, state your goal in one sentence.
Then, as you begin your presentation, state your goal in terms of your audience's background and attitude; announce your purpose early in the presentation to prepare your audience for the main ideas to come. You may want to restate the purpose in words familiar to the audience.
Both written and oral communication often have multiple purposes. The main purpose of your presentation may be to report the status of a project, to summarize a problem, to describe a plan, or to propose an action, but your long-range objective may be to highlight or document important specific issues within the topic about which you are speaking and to further establish your credibility within the organization. You may want the audience to dislike another proposed solution, to desire a more comprehensive solution, or decide there isn't a problem after all.
Oral presentations, like written presentations, can enhance an employee's reputation within an organization. Therefore, consider every speaking opportunity an opportunity to sell not only your ideas but also your competence, your value to the organization.
Choosing and Shaping Content
Preparing the oral presentation often requires the same kind of research needed for the written report. To achieve your goal, you will need to determine what information you will need. You will also want to choose information that will appeal to your audience--particularly their attitudes, interests, biases, and prejudices about the topic.
In selecting content, consider a variety of information types: statistics, testimony, cases, illustrations, history, and particularly narratives that help convey the goal you have for your presentation.
Because listening is more difficult than reading, narratives can be particularly effective in retaining the attention of your listeners. While statistics and data are often necessary in building your argument, narratives interspersed with data provide an important change of pace needed to keep your listeners attentive.
Organizing Your Presentation
Generally, oral presentations have an introduction that ends with your main point and a preview of the rest of the talk, a main body, and a conclusion.
The introduction should clearly tell the audience what the presentation will cover so that the audience is prepared for what is to come.
The body should develop each point stated in the introduction.
The conclusion should reiterate the ideas presented and reinforce the purpose of the presentation. It usually answers the questions, "So what?"
Getting Your Ideas in Order
In planning your introduction, be sure that you state your goal near the beginning. Even if you use some type of anecdote or question to interest your audience, state the goal of your presentation next. Then, state how you will proceed in your presentation: what main issues you will discuss. The main ideas you have developed during the research and content planning stage should be announced here.
The conclusion to the presentation should help the audience understand the significance of your talk and remember main points. Write out the final statement. At a minimum, you should restate the main issues you want your audience to remember, but do so in a concise way. Try to find a concluding narrative or statement that will have an impact on your audience. The conclusion should not be long, but it should leave the audience with a positive feeling about you and your ideas.
Choosing an Appropriate Style
How you sound when you speak is crucial to the success of your presentation. You may have effective content, excellent ideas, accurate supporting statistics. However, if the style you use in speaking is inappropriate to the occasion, to the audience (as individuals and as members of an organization), and to the purpose your are trying to achieve, your content will more than likely be ineffective.
You want to sound respectful, confident, courteous, and sincere.
When a speaker writes the entire speech and memorizes it, the presentation does not sound as if the speaker is talking naturally to the audience.
The tone and degree of formality will be dictated by your organizational role and your relationship to your audience.
Answers to these questions as well as your purpose will determine how you speak to your audience.
Choosing Visual Aids to Reinforce Your Meaning
Because we live in a time when communication is visual and verbal, visual aids are as important to oral communication as they are to written communication.
In addition, the presentation that uses visual aids effectively is more persuasive, more professional, and more interesting. Many of the guidelines for using visual aids in oral presentations mirror those for written documents: they need to fit the needs of the audience; they must be simple; they must be clear and easy to understand.
How many visual aids?
Some kinds of oral presentations will require one kind of visual aid; presentations conveying complex information may require several kinds of visual aids. The point, quite simply, is that listeners are as resistant to an unbroken barrage of words as readers are to unbroken pages of prose.
You can use
drawings, graphs, props and objects, a blackboard with an outline, charts, demonstrations, pictures, statistics, cartoons, photographs, and even "interesting" items or maybe a map .
Use anything that will help people SEE what you MEAN! (Weren't you attracted to the icons above???)
Figure 3 shows a graphic of nitrogen oxide emission trends from the EPA web site, downloaded via Netscape through Yahoo. You might want cruise through this highly effective web site, as it has superb graphics and material for all ages of users:
Figure 4 shows data on Angolan Oil research downloaded from Texas A&M University's Geochemical & Environmental Research Group: http://www-gerg.tamu.edu
Most of these graphics have tables that accompany them. So, if you need hard data, it's there!
Many presentation rooms now have ethernet connections and even computers that have the appropriate software to run a browser such as Netscape. When the computer is connected to an overhead projector, Web images can be shown on a screen. Because of the increasingly rich range of materials available on the World Wide Web, resources available to enhance any oral presentations are almost limitless. Even if the room in which you will give a presentation does not have ethernet connections, you can still print Web materials via a color copier onto paper or transparency masters.
Planning Your Presentation--Questions You Need to Answer
Thus, when you learn that you are to give an oral presentation, the first step in preparing for the presentation is to analyze each point listed above by answering the following questions, just as you did in planning your written communication. Once you have done so, you are ready to design, structure, and organize your presentation so that it will effectively satisfy the constraints that arise from your consideration of each point.
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