Rhetoric and Composition/Teacher's Handbook/Teaching Oral Presentations

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Teaching Oral Presentations[edit]

It has been said that the greatest fear people have is that of public speaking. The comic, Jerry Seinfeld, once remarked on this phenomenon, saying: "Most people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy." With this fear of public speaking so pervasive, it is no wonder that your students will need some guidance and support when you have them present material in front of the class. No matter what the material the students will be presenting, it is important that you provide them with specific ideas about how they should prepare in order for them to engage their audience in an effective presentation about their topic. Share the following strategies and information with your students.

Presentation Evaluation[edit]

In order to help students feel prepared, it is a good idea to have a rubric to give them before they are going to present so they know exactly what is expected of them and how this grading will be different from that of a paper. The following are all possible areas that you might consider when making up your rubric:

  • Delivery - Does the student make eye contact? Do they project their voice? Is their speech clear? Do they exhibit a presence before the class?
  • Visual Aids- Are the visuals presented successfully? Have they been creatively made and used?
  • Creativity- Does the student show an ability to solve the problems of the assignment in an original way? Do they try unique approaches in the presentation in order to get their information across?
  • Knowledge- Does the student convey their knowledge of the issue fluently? Are they able to answer questions without stumbling? Do they give enough specific details to show a depth of understanding about their topic? Do their examples illustrate the topic in a clear and effective way?
  • Insight- Does the student offer the audience insights about their research/information? For instance, do they offer answers to why this topic is important or how it can affect their audience?
  • Preparation/Process- Does it look like the student has prepared materials and their speech well or does it look like they put it together in a slapdash manner?

What do Effective Speakers Do?[edit]

Offer your students some pointers and practice in the class a few weeks before they will have to give a major presentation. You might offer the following suggestions about how to speak in front of a class such as:

Effective speakers do the following:

  • Get their audience's attention by using strategies such as a personal anecdote, a brief story, or humor.
  • Maintain eye contact with their audience as much as they can.
  • Enunciate their words well and project their voice so that everyone can hear them.
  • Provide an overview of the presentation at the beginning.
  • Give strong examples to help explain the main ideas.
  • Use transitions to show where one idea ends and another one begins.
  • Provide a summary of the main points at the end.
  • Anticipate questions that the audience might have and answer them effectively.

To give students the chance to see what it is like to be the center of attention and how they will physically or psychologically respond in such a situation, you can try assigning short speeches weeks or days before they are to give a longer presentation. Depending upon what you are teaching at the time, give students one minute impromtu topics that they can speak informally about in front of the class. Or, you could also assign students a topic a day ahead and then give them one minute to say something cohesive about it in front of the class. The more they practice being in front of a crowd, the better they might feel when called upon to present more material later.