You’re on this page because you need to do an oral presentation, and I want to help you by going over some important aspects of public speaking. The presentations you do may be for a class, for the community, for your cats, or for whomever. The secret to doing oral presentations well is…practice. Below are some questions about oral presentations for discussion:
- What are some common presentation pitfalls?
- Why is understanding your purpose so important?
- What are some questions you should ask about your audience?
- What type of delivery method will work best for you or you and your group—memorized, reading (scripted), notes, or impromptu?
- What are some advantages and disadvantages of the above delivery methods?
- What’s important to keep in mind about visuals (which you must use?
- How should you manage your presentation style?
If this is a class presentation, please have an overview. Spend 15-20 secs telling the audience (us) what you’re going to discuss in your presentation. Introduce them to the topic.
Don’t just jump into your presentation like this guy…
Rhetoric, an Introduction
Well, this is a very limited introduction, but below are major terms for rhetoric that might help our discussion:
- Ethos: the presentation of one’s character (usually to show the speaker/author is credible)
- Pathos: appeal to emotions
- Logos: appeal to reason or logic
A Discussion on Style
In school contexts, we’re used to thinking about correct vs. incorrect, but much of what we learn is really style. For instance, which is correct:
- Egg, milk and cheese
Eggs, milk, and cheese
- My uncle bequeathed his property, cars and houses.
My uncle bequeathed his property, cars, and houses.
- syllabi vs syllabuses
alumni vs alumnuses
- Taxes were raised.
Congress raised taxes.
Rhetorical Moves for Creative Presentations
If you find yourself needing to be more creative (as opposed to formal for a job situation), how can you best reach your audience? I’m going to ask you to pair up and discuss a few things. Let’s consider the following:
- What’s your hook? How do you grab their attention?
- Have you considered diction?
- Elevated, grand style
- Revival style
- Terse, poetic style (minimalist)
- Use appropriate metaphors to illuminate your discussion
- “As barren as Harris Teeter shelves when an inch of snow is in Charlotte’s forecast…”
- “Like a moth to a flame, I gravitated to…”
- “I felt like a fish out of water when I entered the room…”
- Your history
- How old are you?
- Where were you born?
- Where did you grow up?
- Repetition vs. Redundancy
*Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
*Asking what your country can do for you is inappropriate, so you ought to ask what you can do for your country.
- Book Ends, coming full circle
- Ask a question you answer at the end
- End on a topic, idea, reference, etc. that you mention at the start of your presentation
Truth is often Stranger than Fiction, but…
You’ve heard the expression that “truth is often stranger than fiction,” but, unfortunately, “truth” isn’t always as interesting or believable. There’s a strange irony to the fact that some exact descriptions of event don’t seem…real.
- Aim for impressions and not exact steps or sequence of events
- For instance, for admission to graduate school, you often have to write an essay about how your education of life led you to want to be in a program. You wouldn’t narrate your exact steps like…
- I was born…
- I went to elementary school, middle school, high school…
- I saw a brochure on culinary schools…
- My dad took me to the culinary school open house…
- He forbid me to go…
- I eventually majored in X in college…
- Exact details are less important than capturing a mood
- Amalgamations of people, think personas
A Lesson from the great Film Sideways
Below is the screenplay excerpt of the first wine tasting scene from the film Sideways (probably one of my top 5–definitely top 10–favorite films). Read the script excerpt and then watch the film clip.
MILES: Don’t be shy. Get your nose in there. Jack now buries his nose in the glass.
MILES: What do you smell?
JACK: I don’t know. Wine? Fermented grapes?
MILES: There’s not much there yet, but you can still find…
…a little citrus… maybe some strawberry… passion fruit… and there’s even a hint of like asparagus… or like a nutty Edam cheese.
[Jack smells again and begins to brighten.]
JACK: Huh. Maybe a little strawberry. Yeah, strawberry. I’m not so sure about the cheese.
- What does the film add for more authentic dialogue?
- What tone does Miles have? (stern, excited, academic, etc.)
- Contrast that with this description of wine from later in the film.
- Because I can’t resist this scene…
Happy Valentine’s Day!!!
It’s scientifically proven that marriage gets worse. Good luck on your performances. I’ll see you there!