How should I plan for a spoken presentation?

The first step is to decide:

  • what information to include
  • what equipment or materials you will use and
  • what structure your presentation should have. (See the Help Yourself topic on the structure of a spoken presentation.)

The next step is to create notes or an outline to use during your presentation. These must be brief: do not read out a written script. (Written language is not the same as spoken language, and harder for your audience to follow. It is also difficult to find your place in a script if you are distracted, and impossible to keep good eye contact with your audience when you are reading.) Examples of notes:

  • a printed copy of your slideshow
  • a list of bullet-points
  • a ‘tree-diagram’ of the structure of the talk, with a keyword for each point
  • a note card for each part of your presentation, etc.

Practise your talk and check the timing. It is wise to work out how many minutes you wish to spend on each part. Allow time for any necessary pauses. For example, if you show a slide with a lot of information, such as a table or a long quotation, stop speaking to give the audience time to read it. It is very helpful to practice your presentation with a friend, to find out if any parts are unclear, too fast or slow.

Finally, do some preparation to build your confidence and reduce nerves. For example, if you will be presenting in a new place, go there beforehand to become familiar with it: e.g. Is there a whiteboard? Do you need to bring your own whiteboard pens? Will you need a microphone? Where are the light switches? Can you bring your own laptop, or do you need a USB drive? etc. Also, you may be able to ‘plan your audience’, by asking a friend to bring some easy questions and sit near the front, so that you can be sure of a friendly face when you begin to speak.

For more on this topic, see the links on the right...