Originally Published on The Age, 29 May 2006
I'm so nervous about doing my oral presentation. I just start blushing and feel sick. Any tips?
YOU'VE just spent quite some time and effort researching and writing that oral presentation.
You've made sure there are plenty of rhetorical questions, images and metaphors for the class to see and and hear. You've written the right number of words, basing the pace on 120 words per minute. You think, "I'm just about ready, just read it through a couple of times and I'll gun the A+".
Wrong! Writing the speech is not the end of it. Far from it. It is only about halfway there. Now starts the really important part: rehearsing it. Making it simpler and clearer. Practising the voice, pauses, gestures you will use. Working out when, where and how you might use any visual aids.
You should precis it down to point form, except for quotes. These should be read in a different voice and you still need to "read" the quotes by using "Ready, Aim, Fire". T his means you look at the quote, in silence, look up at a member of the class and fire it at another member.
You do need to learn the introduction and conclusion off by heart. These should be said the most clearly and strongly to grab attention and to leave a strong message or idea at the end. But do not learn it in a singsong voice.
When you do practise, where is the best place? Some people say in front of a mirror. T hat is very confronting. Practise in front of a parent or friend. If you do say it to one person, do it as if you are in front of the class. This means you need to look all around the room, giving about a second to each person, randomly.
See yourself up there in the full limelight. It will help you prepare more realistically. Tell that voice in your head to go away. It is making you more nervous and telling you not to make a fool of yourself. The better speakers DO make fools of themselves a little, to make a point. However, they do it with such confidence, that everyone enjoys the speech.
If you are holding the notes, they should be on small cards, hole-punched together with a ring.
They should not be large and floppy. If you are allowed to use a lectern, the notes should be placed on the lectern but you should not stand behind it. Stand to the side so the class can see you and look at the notes in silence, when you need to look at them.
However, I hear you ask, "What should I do with my hands?"
Hands and gestures are tricky. When you start, leave them at your sides and take a deep breath. As you speak, let the emotion of the words bring your hands up to naturally illustrate points and reinforce certain words. Gestures need to be appropriate, relaxed and suit the content. Too much flapping or repetitive gesturing can distract. Though a person gripping cards will not make any gestures.