Making Effective Oral Presentations in English in an Academic Context
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Oral presentations are brief discussions of a focused topic delivered to a group of listeners. In academic context, oral presentations are used to impart knowledge or to stimulate discussion. The importance of English language nowadays can not be denied as the language have become a lingua franca or communication language among nations in the world. English is rank as number two language after the Chinese language (which includes all the dialects) in terms of number of people using it for communication purposes. Therefore in academic contexts, it is necessary to equip the students with good competency in the English language before they graduate so that when they leave, the students have no problem in communicating in English.
As a result, the role of English language instructors have become the front line in the battle to produce better students with good command of English language. During interaction with students, the most used modes of communication is through oral presentations. As the front line, the English language instructors have to be the best example they can be. In order to produce the best result, all English language instructors have no other choice but to find a way for making effective oral presentations in English.
This presentation shall explore on the issues related to make effective oral presentation in English in an Academic Context. As a summary, oral communication need us to know how to pronounce words and sentence properly as well as the interactive element, namely, the transactional model of communication which is the management of turn-taking. For that reason, the need for speech training in English is vital for all English language instructors.
2. Speaking in a formal academic context
Speaking in a formal academic context involve understanding of the following issues:
1. The transactional model of communication
2. Academic and professional public speaking skills and strategies
3. Importance and type of audience analysis
1. The transactional model of communication
Oral communication in an academic context follows the transactional model of communication. While the interactive model said both speaker and listener take turns to speak and listen to each other, it did not take into consideration the time factor which the interaction of both speaker and listener could happen simultaneously. In academic context simultaneous feedback is very vital when imparting knowledge as the feedback given by that the listener indicate that the message or knowledge has been interpreted accurately as intended by the speaker.
2. Public speaking skills and strategies
Public speaking is a skill that can be learn and acquired. Making a speech in public requires preparation and understanding about turn-taking which is the simultaneous feedback mentioned earlier being delayed because the listener only provide feedback when you paused or at the end of the speech. In a public speaking situation, feeling nervousness and anxiety is natural for many speakers who is going to face an audience. The following strategies could help in building confidence in public speaking:
1. Change the Way of Thinking
Think positive or use visualisation technique of how you are going to deliver the speech.
2. Systemic Desensitisation
According to Wikipedia, Systematic? desensitization? is a technique which is used to help people manage and eventually overcome phobias and other anxiety disorders. It was developed by a South African psychiatrist, Joseph Wolpe. It can be performed by a psychologist or psychotherapist or by a patient who is willing to invest energy in doing? systematic? desensitization? at home. The goal of the treatment is to allow the patient to experience situations which would normally result in anxiety, fear, and stress without tension (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-systematic-desensitization.htm).
3. Skills Training
Get a skills training in public speaking could help in alleviating apprehension when delivering speeches. Joining a group such as Toastmasters could help tremendously in gaining public speaking skills.
4. Relaxation Techniques
Learn relaxation techniques that can be used when you are about to give a speech and still at backstage such as breathing technique.
5. Prepare and Practise Your Speech
Practice makes perfect. The more you practice, the better is the outcome. Do mock delivery in front of family and friends and get their feedback.
6. Gain Experience
In the end, the more public speaking experience you possessed, the more confidence you become. Therefore try to get the public speaking exposure as much as possible.
3. Importance and type of audience analysis
As mentioned earlier, making an oral presentation in public requires preparation. One of it is the audience analysis. The rest of the preparation shall be dealt with later. What is audience analysis Audience analysis is making enquiries about the audience to help in determining the type of audience and tailor made your presentation. The followings are a few examples on questions that you should ask yourself or the related party such as the organiser when doing audience analysis:?
??? How much do my audience members know about the subject
??? How much do they know about me
??? What do they expect from me
??? How interested will they be in what I say
??? What is their attitude toward me
??? What is their attitude toward my subject
??? What is their age group
??? What positions do their occupy in the organization
??? What is their educational background
??? What is their cultural/ethnic background
??? What is their economic background
??? What are their political and religious views
??? What kinds of cultural biases will they likely have toward me and my topic
(Source: http://riceowl.rice.edu/guidance.cfmdoc_id=11775#audience )
If applicable, it is helpful to contact the organiser of the event and make enquiries about the audience.
The importance of audience analysis are:
??? Tailor made your presentation by creating a connection between the presentation and the audience.
??? The type of audience would determine the content, level of language used and the style of delivering the content during the presentation.
??? The analysis will suggest what you should say or write, what you should not say, and the tone you should use.? If you can identify ways to connect with your listeners, you can make your speech interesting and useful.
3. Preparing an oral presentation
Previously, we have touch on audience analysis. As mentioned, audience analysis is a part of preparation of an oral presentation. By now, it has been established that to make an effective oral presentation require the presenter or the speaker to make advance planning and preparation ahead of the event. In this session, I will tell about preparing an oral presentation. This is all the things any presenter or speaker should do before he or she goes up the stage to deliver the presentation or speech.
Preparing for an oral presentation involve the followings:
1. analysing the audience,
2. determining the purpose,
3. gathering materials,
4. organising and writing main ideas,and
5. preparing visual aids (if required).
Therefore, it is necessary for the presenter or the speaker to do some homework first so that during the presentation it help to focus on the main points of the speech so that do not touch on unnecessary and irrelevant aspects.
1. Analysing the audience
This topic have been covered before. However checking out the audience attending the presentation is only one part of three factors that need to done during preparations. The other two factors that need to set aside time for making preparations are:
1) the setting where the presentation would be made
Profiling the setting involved in to know about the location of the event. This is important as familarity with the setting reduce panic attacks during the presentation and minimise risk of unexpected problems. Such as if long distance travelling is required then the travelling time and accomodation need to be included in the planning so that we are not late for the presentation and we have ample time to prepare for the setting of the visual aids such as computer and overhead projector if it required for the presentation.
2) the occassion for the presentation
As the presenter, it is important to know whether the occassion will be in formal or informal setting. This is important so that you know what to wear for the occassion. Another thing to ask is the specific length of time allocated for you to deliver the presentation or speech. This is useful during the organising and writing main idea process later for the presentation.
2. Determining the purpose and topic (aim)
Once you possessed the information about the occassion and location and the type of audience attending, the next step is to set the aims and objectives of the presentation. The aim of the presentation could be one or combination of the followings list:
??? To convey,
??? Clarify, or
After the aim or purpose of the presentation has been determined, the presentation topic could be set. The presentation topic must be linked to the aim or purpose of presentation above and answer the question: ???What the presentation is meant for???
Next, decide the objectives of the presentation based on the aim or purpose that have been set earlier. The objectives are more specific breakdown of what the presentation is about or could be expressed in terms of what the presenter want to do.
3. Researching the topic to be presented
After we have decide the objectives, come the process of gathering materials for the presentation. Collecting materials sources from information resources like the library and also life experience. Material collected often needs to be adapted because of time constrains and to suit the need of your audience.
4. Organising and writing main ideas
In organising the structure of the presentation content, you will have :
??? The opening ??“ inform the audience what they are going to listen to
??? The middle ??“ present the main ideas (the presentation content)
??? The ending ??“ summarise the main points
Chivers (2007) mentioned the following about developing content and structure:
Beginning: Set the scene, provide the background. Give your name and the title of the presentation. Get their attention. Tell them what you are going to do. The question that you are trying to get them to think about is simply ???Who is this person and what are they telling me??™
Middle: Get into more detail, give an outline and analysis of the topic. The questions that you are trying to answer are ???Where did this happen When did this happen??™
End: Provide findings or solutions, summarize and conclude. Repeat key messages and provide a resolution. The questions you are trying to answer are: ???What are the key issues What are the key messages??™
During the end the tone is very important because you might be:
??? Making key points
??? Making recommendation
??? Suggest a solution
??? Suggesting a way forward
Other tips for organising structure and content of the presentation are:
??? Sequencing of main ideas: start with easy to more difficult, known to unknown or chronologically if relate to time or logical sequence.
??? Outlining certain categories based on main ideas. Might be a need to create sub-ideas under each main idea ??“ should not be more than five to avoid confusion, attract boredom rather than improve attentiveness.
After the structure has been developed, the writing process begins. Use the outline created as a guide when writing up the points. During the writing process, please to consider the language and style aspect that you want to use. Language should be simple and not too complex. The style also should be simple as possible as writing an academic paper and a speech is not the same.
5. Preparing visual aids
The purpose of visual aids is to enhance the presentation. As the name suggest, it if created to assist the presenter in getting the message across to the audience and not replace the presenter. After the writing process completed use it as a guide to prepare visual aids. Ensure that the aids shown relate to the specific points discussed. Prior to the presentation event, make sure the equipment such as notebook etc to be used is working and if you are making presentation using PowerPoint ensure the file can be open and prepare backup file in case the main file can not be opened.
4. Making an effective oral presentation
Having prepared the content of the presentation, we have come to the most important part that is the delivery process. When presenting the content, follow the general outline created during the writing process.
The delivery style of presentation or how it is presented is just as important as what is presented. The presentation style can be enhance if a presenter do the following:
??? Use the space wisely. It is important to move about and not standing stiffly, use natural gestures, and most importantly make eye contact with the audience.
??? Convey enthusiasm through changes in tone, facial expressions and body language. Try not to speak too loud or in other words keep the volume conversational.
??? Provide variety. Alternate between moving and standing still, speaking and doing, and humor and sincerity.
??? Try not to read from notes. Use notes as prompts only.
??? Summarise the points at the end of the presentation. Then, thank the audience for listening.
??? Invite comments and participation. After it??™s over, leave with a smile.
5. Summary of the paper and concluding remarks
The making of an effective oral presentation involve preparation and strategies that begins before the event itself. The success of the presentation depends on the preparation from gathering information about the settings of the event to the materials for the content of the presentation itself. The strategies of making an effective presentation (such as overcoming nervousness etc) also important to any presenter or speaker, it will affect the delivery of the presentation. In the end, all the skills required for making an oral presentation or giving a speech is a skill that can be learnt and acquired.
10. Making Effective Oral Presentations, [Online] Retrieved Nov 14, 2010. Available: http://employaid.com/articles/articles.aspID=98&TopicID=1