A large part of the impact of your presentation is made by your voice and body language, yet people generally focus their preparation on content. Make sure you allocate some time to considering and practising your speaking skills and body language.
Good voice control and clear articulation are essential for an effective oral presentation. You should also think about varying your pitch, volume, pace, expression and intonation to keep the audience engaged.
Your voice can be constricted by tightness in the rest of your body. Try to relax if you notice tension in your body, such as tightness, clenching or locking.
Deep breathing exercises are useful to allow you to relax and develop maximum lung capacity.
If you’re from a language background other than English, making your meaning clear to the audience is more important than correct grammar and pronunciation when you speak. To help clarify your meaning you can:
You can download audio lessons as part of our English speech practice course.
Lesson 1: stress and rhythm (mp3, 17MB)
Lesson 2: weak forms (mp3, 9.2MB)
Lesson 3: contractions (mp3, 6.5MB)
Lesson 4: link up (mp3, 19.6MB)
Lesson 5: intonation (mp3, 17.9MB)
Lesson 6: practice of all features (mp3, 14MB)
Lesson 7: consonant sounds - fricatives (mp3, 7.2MB)
Lesson 8: consonant sounds - l, r and n (mp3, 7.1MB)
Lesson 9: long versus short vowels (mp3, 7.3MB)
Lesson 10: 'or' and 'er' (mp3, 6.7MB)
Lesson 11: the 'ugh' sound (mp3, 7.5MB)
Your body language is important to engage an audience. If you look confident and comfortable while presenting, you will put the audience at ease.
Think about your stance and posture, hand and body movement, and your facial expressions. Try to make eye contact with different people.
When practising you could try recording yourself. You may notice distractions such as frequently saying ‘um’, annoying body or hand movements, speaking too quickly or obscuring visuals.
It’s normal to feel nervous or anxious before and during giving a presentation in front of an audience.
Stress hormones (such as adrenaline in the short term, or cortisol in the long term) can be useful as they make you feel alert and energetic. They can also have negative effects too, which make it difficult to deliver a presentation.
To reduce effects such as shaking, sweating and difficulty concentrating, you can try the following strategies.
Find more information on overcoming stress and anxiety.
This material was developed by the Learning Centre, who offer workshops, face-to-face consultations and resources to support your learning. Find out more about how they can help you develop your communication, research and study skills.
See the handout on Oral presentations (pdf, 3.2MB).