Originally Published on The Age, 22 May 2006
This is not just for Year 12, but everybody.
I have to make an oral presentation but I'm nervous and having trouble working out how to start.
WHAT is it about presenting orals that scares most students? Is it the thought of getting up in front of peers? Is it the idea of going blank? Is it the fear that friends will think you are silly? Or that you will feel embarrassed? Bore them? Run out of time?
No matter what your concerns, one of the ways to ensure success is to plan. Indeed, preparation prevents poor performance.
So, how do you go about preparing a speech or the oral SAC, as it is known in Year 12?
To some extent, it depends on what the school has decided to include in the oral SAC. If the school offers text response, dramatic presentation, or issues point of view and analysis, you will have plenty of scope to play to your strengths.
The first thing is to gain knowledge on the set topic. Whether it is a "text response" oral or an "issue" oral, you need to become an expert in that area.
You will need to know whether the oral needs to be closely tied to the text or whether it can be thematic.
Once you know your purpose and audience, you need to know whether you are going to mostly inform, persuade, instruct or entertain - in the case of a dramatic monologue. (These are more for drama students.)
You need to know the length of your presentation before you start to plan and write it. The ideal pace to speak at is 120 words a minute. Therefore, if your oral is five minutes long, you need about 600 words. And you need to know the criteria. These are on the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority website, as well as in the English course outline in every school.
Briefly, the criteria are: content that is complex and relevant, a structure that flows, a manner that engages the audience and language that is suitable to the task.
What do you do first? Start with the conclusion. This will help you decide where you are going. What is the message you wish to leave with the class and the teacher? How will you finish? Legitimate ways to end include a quote from the text or someone famous, a call to action, a poem or a scenario about the future. Whatever the finish, it should be strong and reinforce your main idea. Do not finish with "thank you".