Tips for Oral Presentations

Center for International and Cultural Education

At some point, you are likely to be assigned an oral presentation during your time at Gustavus, either individually or as part of a group project. This is a great opportunity to show your professor what you have learned, and develop your communication skills. Here are a few tips:

  • Slow down your speaking speed. This is the most important tip!
  • Begin preparing early and practice, practice, practice.
  • Prepare, but don't memorize long chunks. Memorized speech is hard for listeners to process, and can easily become boring to your audience, because you won't be using the natural intonation patterns that would normally convey energy and engagement. 
  • If you're using slides, be sure they complement, but do not drive, your presentation. 
  • Keep text on slides and handouts minimal.
  • Make eye contact with audience members, and spread your eye contact throughout the room. Don't just look at your professor.
  • Pause before and after your most important statements, and between topics.
  • Use transition statements, like "Ok, we've talked about x, now let's move on to y."
  • End with confidence. Instead of closing with "Ok, that's the end of my presentation," try ending with "Thank you for listening to my presentation about x today."
  • Talk to your professor about the expectations beforehand.

Make an appointment with Carly Overfelt to practice and get expert feedback. She can help you reserve a room in Beck where you can record your presentation and see how to improve delivery, body language, and so on. Here is what one student said about her experience working with Carly:

"I always feel nervous whenever it comes to presentations, even in my mother language. No matter how much I prepare, I just forget it all when I stand in front of the public despite the fact that I am a talkative and vocal person in real life. It required even more work to improve my presentation skills in English. But practice takes time and I also became more confident with myself. I have learned to face my weakness and embrace it to grow."

More resources:

Toastmasters International

Algonquin College Presentation Skills Guide

Advice from Christine Kelly at Claremont (for grad students but still applies to undergrads)