Oral Presentation Advice for Distance Learning Students

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1 Page 1 Department of Lifelong Learning (Download pdf version) Oral Presentation Advice for Distance Learning Students The oral presentation is such a useful assessment tool! As well as encouraging you to develop a skill that can be used outside of the university environment, this skill also fully tests your knowledge of an area. In order to explain an issue or argument to others, you must have fully considered it yourself, and figured out how to best present it. Oral presentations are also a great way for you to share your knowledge with other students, and they may even help you feel like more of a part of the Department. For many students, oral presentations are a necessity to fulfil their certificate or degree requirements in Visual Arts or Historical Studies. This handout is designed to help distance learning students prepare for their oral presentations. The first section of this handout deals with general tips for oral presentations, while the second section will go on to deal with specific issues for students who present from a distance. The handout will then go on to cover advice for answering questions that come from the audience. Reflection Point Think about the different types of presentations you have done previously. How do you think that these experiences will compare with an academic oral presentation? Have you previously been assessed by oral presentation format. What feedback did you receive from your tutor last time and how will this impact on your preparation and delivery this time? Section One General tips for oral presentations

2 Page 2 KNOW your task The first step in preparing for an oral presentation is to know what is required of you. Think very clearly about the purpose of your presentation. Re-read your topic carefully and break down the question into small tasks. Initially, you may like to treat your question as you would an essay, and much of your early preparation will mirror that of an essay. You will need to interpret your question correctly, and structure your answer logically. For further help, consult the Student Support Office publications on essay writing. As well as seeing similarities with an essay task, you must also see how your task is different. Think about the limits of a presentation, for example, time and format, as well as your audience. Think about their levels of knowledge and their needs. For example, be sure not to use too much jargon if your audience is new to the topic. KNOW your stuff As stated earlier, preparation for the presentation will mirror that of an essay in many ways. You will need to present a clear hypothesis, and you will need to have formulated a clear plan for arguing your case or presenting your explanation. You will also need to have examples and expert opinions on hand to support your points. You will need to have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion and an ordered argument that answers the question. Let s look at the function of each section of the presentation. The introduction should state the title and purpose of your presentation, should provide the audience with an outline of your major points, and should be used to motivate and interest the audience. The body should take its cue from the introduction and should expand on each of your major points, in the same order as you outlined in the introduction. For each point you should provide discussion based on analysis, a link to the original question, and provide examples to support your argument. The conclusion should summarise you main arguments and reiterate how you have addressed the original question or task. You should also use the conclusion to further motivate the audience and to ask for feedback or initiate question time. KNOW what to expect Understand how the process of a distance learning oral presentation is going to work. Re-read the guidelines for the presentation format and decide in advance if you are going to use audio tape, video tape, or if you are going to come to class to present. For question time, know how many people will probably be in the classroom. Try to anticipate the kinds of questions that the classroom students and the tutor might ask you. Try to prepare some answers for these questions in advance.

3 Page 3 On the following pages you will find a template that will help you to plan your oral presentation.

4 Page 4 Drawing Up A Plan This activity will help you to plan your oral presentation using the suggestions outlined above. What is the purpose of my presentation? What is the presentation time limit? How much time do I have for questions? How have I refined my topic? What are the needs of the audience? How much does my audience know about the topic and how much jargon will they understand?

5 Page 5 What s my main point or hypothesis? How am I going to order my arguments/main points, and how will I present each one? Also, what example to I have to support each argument? (tip use a pencil, because it is likely that you ll change this section) Thinking point Do all of my main points and arguments relate to my original topic and hypothesis?

6 Page 6 In the box below, write a sample conclusion that shows how you ve answered your original question or hypothesis, and that leaves the audience thinking positively about your topic. Thinking point What questions can I expect from the audience? Use the box below to make notes about the arrangements you will need to make for the presentation. For example, will you use audio or video tape, and what arrangements do you need to make to set up a the question time?

7 Page 7 Thinking point How much time will I need to fully practice my presentation?

8 Page 8 Section One, continued Presentation Tips For students coming into class, or those who use video tape, you must consider the following issues. Eye contact: Although it will initially feel uncomfortable, try to look directly into the camera when addressing the class, so that you make the class feel that you are talking directly to them. If you present in class, it is important that you should look around the room at the students, not look down at your notes. Movement and gesture: Be sure that your movements and gestures are appropriate, although you should try to limit movement if you are presenting to camera. Be sure to use some gesture and expression to liven up your presentation, for example smile when it is appropriate, and use your hands in a judicious way. All students should consider the following presentation tips: Visuals: You will need to provide the class with copies of your visuals, in case these are difficult to see on the camera. If you are using audio tape, then you will need to provide a comprehensive set of visuals that are clearly marked. During your presentation you might like to include directives for your audience, for example, see slide number three, now. Voice: Carefully monitor the volume and pace of your voice. Be sure to speak slowly and at a level that can be heard by the tape recorder or the camera. Avoid ums and ahs and be sure to correctly enunciate your words so that you are easy to understand. Remember that you can convey emotion through your voice. The use of silence and repetition, for example, can emphasise important points. Audience interaction: This may seem like a difficult task, considering your distance, but you may like to pose questions for the audience, and then give them a few possible responses as part of your presentation. This kind of activity might even help to start the question time with the class. Please note: In addition to these tips, students should also consult the Oral Assessment Handouts that are available from tutors and subject leaders. These Handouts outline the official marking criteria and requirements for the presentations at levels one and three. Action Point Control your nervousness! Feeling nervous before a presentation is perfectly normal, but there are many ways in which you can help to control the nervous feelings. If you are nervous it

9 Page 9 will be evident in your voice, so it is important to feel confident so that your voice is clear on tape. As a distance learner, you have a great advantage in that you will be able to re-record your presentation if you are not happy with the first take. However, there are other methods to help control the nervous feelings that come with oral presentations, and with the process of answering questions. Try some of the following suggestions. Remember that oral presentations are not performances! You are not being expected to put on a show for your fellow students, but instead, think of the presentation as a communication or information sharing activity. You will feel less nervous if you understand that the presentation has more in common with a conversation than a theatrical review. Before presenting, take some time to calm yourself. Instead of frantically re-reading your notes and working yourself up, go for a walk and breathe deeply, or take time for yourself by having a bath or doing something else that relaxes you. Most importantly, be sure that you are fully prepared and that you are confident with your topic. The surer you are of your topic and your mastery of it, the less nervous you will feel on the day. Section Two Issues for students doing oral presentations from a distance As a student who is doing an oral presentation from a distance, you will need to consult with your tutor regarding the arrangements for your individual presentation, but briefly, these procedures are followed. After preparing your oral presentation, including handouts and other visuals, you will record the presentation on to either audiotape or videotape and you will need to post this to your tutor by an agreed due date At the next suitable classroom date, which should be negotiated between with your tutor, your tape will be played to your peers, and they will be provided with copies of your handouts. After playing the tape, you will participate in a telephone conference in which you will answer questions from students and tutors in relation to your presentation. To prepare for the question time, it might be an idea to view or listen to your tape once again, at around the same time that the students are listening. As you listen, try to anticipate any questions that may arise. After your presentation and the questions, students will complete evaluation sheets and this feedback will then be posted back to you. Using these evaluation sheets and your own appraisal of your presentation, you will need to complete a reflective account of your presentation that must be posted back to your tutor within a couple of weeks.

10 Page 10 These bullet points are guidelines only, and all final details should be negotiated with your tutor well in advance of the due date of your presentation. Section Three Answering questions at the end of your presentation As part of your presentation, you will need to answer questions from your peers or tutors. This will be done during a telephone conference, but you should check with your tutor for further details. While answering questions might seem difficult initially, try to remember that because you have already researched the topic in depth, you will already be somewhat of an expert in the subject area (compared with the other students knowledge). Putnis and Petelin (1999: 205) suggest that an audience is showing its interest if it asks questions, and that you should not consider questions to be threatening. The following guide outlines some important issues to consider when answering academic oral-based questions. Plan your answers where possible. Try to anticipate questions the audience might ask and prepare responses. When planning your answers be sure to have examples ready that illustrate the major points you are trying to communicate. Be concise by stating your answer clearly and illustrating it with a single example. It s a good idea to repeat and/or paraphrase the question. Always wait until the audience member has finished his question and then repeat and/or paraphrase it. By repeating the question you are buying yourself time to fully consider your answer. You are also helping the audience by ensuring that everyone has heard the original question. By paraphrasing the question, you are demonstrating to the audience that you understand the question and you may be helping those audience members who did not understand the original question. This is particularly helpful if the original question was too verbose or technical for the rest of the audience. In some cases, audience members will try to veer you away from your intended topic by asking loaded questions. By paraphrasing the question, you can reword it so that you answer the question, but in relation to the topic you re discussing. If you don t understand the question, ask the audience member to repeat it in a different way. Never guess an answer or deliberately lie to the audience. If you don t know the answer to someone s question, you re going to have to admit it. If you try and fake it, it s likely in an academic context that someone in the room will know the correct answer and will pick you up on it. This impacts negatively on your academic credibility and may affect your marks. If someone in the audience refers to a theory/theorist/ fact/etc that you did not previously know of, it is best to be honest and admit that you had not considered it. However, if you cannot answer someone s query, it is important that you do not quickly answer I don t know and then move on. Be sure to refer the audience member to an appropriate person or reference for further information. If you have the time and inclination, you might like to offer to find out the information and get back to the audience member in the future. Also, never apologise for not knowing the answer. The audience is not interested in your apology; they want to know how to find out the answer. Remember that question time is a legitimate part of your presentation. When answering questions either at the end of a presentation or as a stand-alone exercise,

11 Page 11 remember that they form a legitimate part of the assessment process. It is for that reason that question time should be formally introduced and concluded, in the same way you would for any section of an oral presentation. Summarise each of your responses and check that the audience understands. Sometimes it is useful to be aware of your time constraints and to deem which question will be last. Use the final question and references to previous questions as a way of concluding your question time. McCarthy and Hatcher (1996: 14) suggest that answering questions can be part of an overall strategic process. In answering your audience s question you may be able to help demonstrate why your presentation was relevant to them or you may be able to reiterate your major points; question time can help support your initial message (McCarthy and Hatcher 1996: 14). Even with thorough preparation, sometimes not everything goes to plan. The following information guides you on how to deal with some uncomfortable situations. Q: I m so nervous about answering questions. What can I do to stop feeling so nervous? A: Remember, in most cases you will be well versed in your subject area before you re asked to answer oral questions. This will allow you to speak quite freely on the topic. Also, try to remember that the answering of questions is similar to a conversation. Conversations are a communication process, not a performance; the same can be said for answering questions from an audience. Q: What if an audience member becomes argumentative or rude? A: You will find that the rest of the audience will be on your side. You might like to remind the disruptive audience member of the original presentation topic and ask him to keep comments and questions within the parameters of the topic. If the attacks are personal or degrading, you will need to be assertive and remind the audience member about the rules of polite and constructive criticism. If you feel intimidated, seek the support of the lecturer. Q: Someone in the audience keeps making statements about the presentation, but doesn t ask any questions. What do I do? A: It is OK to gently remind the audience member that, while comments are valuable, at this point you are only answering questions. Perhaps you might offer to discuss her statements after class, or suggest that the audience write down all statements on their feedback sheets. Q: Someone has just asked me a really complex question that will take too long to answer and will eat up all my question time. What do I do? A: Acknowledge the complexity of the question and offer as simple an answer as possible. Offer to deal with the question in greater depth outside your assessed question time. It is important that you prepare your oral presentation well in advance of the due date. As well as preparing the content, you should also negotiate presentation arrangements with your tutor, prepare slides and handouts, and practice your presentation skills. You will also need to ensure that you have equipment available to make a recording of your presentation.

12 Page 12 Copyright 2002 Samantha Briggs Produced for the Department of Lifelong Learning, University of Exeter

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