Presentation Improvement Suggestions

1. Constructing and Practicing your Presentation

We suggest you at least try mind-mapping as an initial method of constructing your presentation.  From the mind-map, you can then construct a detailed outline.  For the presentation itself, condense the detailed outline into a "presentation outline" that is a single page with large font so you can easily glance down at it while you speak.

Concentrate on the objective of your speech: What you want the audience to know or do because of your presentation.  "I'm going to talk to you today about sky-diving" is NOT an objective.  "After my speech today you will know how to sky dive, and you will be inspired to take the plunge this weekend" IS an objective.

Practicing in front of a supportive audience who will honestly give you positive feedback and constructive suggestions based on the critique sheet criteria, is the single most important thing you should do to prepare. Practicing in front of others and getting feedback is part of the presentation assignment!  Ideally you should practice at least three times on three separate days before your presentation in lab.

2. The Presentation

In general your pace should be slightly slower than you think it should be.  The vast majority of speakers tend to rush.  Slowing down gives you more time to think, you can PAUSE more effectively, and it is easier to keep track of what you will talk about next.

The pauses for effect should be very obvious.  You should be able to count to three slowly (three full seconds of silence) during a pause. This is best done just before you say something that you want the audience to pay attention to.  For example, if your presentation was about world hunger, you might ask "How many people on Earth do you think will have died from hunger within the nine minutes that I give my presentation? (1..2...3)".  Or if you were telling a personal story, pause just before the conclusion or punch-line: "So there we were out in the Atlantic with nine foot seas in our sea kayaks when the squall-line hit, (1..2..3) then we desperately started paddling through the gale to the harbor."

Conclusions should include a restate of the main points that the audience should remember.  For example "in summary, get a dog from a shelter or registered breeder, not a puppy-farm; have your dog vaccinated, and lastly, spay or neuter your dog".  Do not give a CATEGORICAL summary "today I talked to you about where to get a dog, and what to do once you have it."

At the very end of your presentation (the last thing you do before saying "Thank You") you should end strongly.  Say and/or do something that your audience will remember.  Examples include: Show a memorable image that ties in with your hook, draw the prize-winning name, build up to a quote or song (remember how Martin Luther King ended his "I have a dream" speech), tell a gripping personal story, do something unusual and different to culminate the presentation (play a tune on a penny whistle, do a handstand, juggle, ride the unicycle, recite the moving poem from memory, make the audience laugh).

End your presentation with "Thank You".  Do not ask "Are there any questions?".  It is the job of the Master of Ceremonies to facilitate questions.  If the Master forgets, just stand there until they remember or they get reminded that it is their job to facilitate questions.

When someone asks a question, you as the speaker should repeat the question.  We know it is somewhat awkward in a small lab setting where everyone can hear the question to repeat it, but you should get into the habit of doing this so you will remember to do so when you do speak in front of a larger audience, or in a place of poor acoustics.

3.  The Reflection Paper

Put headings for the three sections: "The Speech I Prepared For", "The speech I Gave" and "Improvements for Next Time".

Be sure to address all the items under each heading.  For example, under "The Speech I Prepared For" you should address: Why you chose your topic…  how your conducted your research…  the credibility of your sources, especially web –based sources…  the objectives of your speech…  how you went about constructing the speech…  the amount and type of practice you did…  who you practiced in front of, and how many times...the feedback you received…  any other preparation.

Number the pages in the Reflection Paper.