Oral presentations have three main purposes: to inform, persuade or promote goodwill with the audience. In order to accomplish a successful oral presentation there are some basic best practices that should be used as guidelines when conducting public speaking. The most important aspect of an oral presentation is to engage the audience. If the audience is not interested in the speaker, the oral presentation will not reach the intended audience. For starters, the speaker should research the subject being presented.
If a speaker appears to be knowledgeable in the subject that they are presenting, then the audience will be more inclined to believe the speaker. Audience trust is crucial when the speaker is trying to inform or persuade the audience. The speaker should be well versed in their knowledge of the subject and practice the presentation until it feels more natural and flows easily. The words should be understandable to the audience and pronounced clearly. Preparation is critical and the speaker should know the audience as well as the presentation.
Eye contact is another best practice to include in oral presentations. No one wants to sit in an audience and feel as though they are being read a story. The speaker should only reflect upon their notes and make eye contact with as many people in the audience as possible. If the audience knows that the speaker is watching them as well, the audience will be more likely to pay attention to the speaker. The speaker should focus on the people in the audience that appear to be the most interested.
By making eye contact with the people who are interested in what the speaker is saying, the speaker will feel as though what they are saying is worth hearing. The speaker should take the time to prepare a strong opening and closing to the presentation. A strong opening will attract the audience’s attention immediately and make a connection from the speaker to the members of the audience. At the end of the presentation the speaker should have a strong closing. The closing of the presentation should be a summary of the entire oral presentation and allow the audience to take away the key points that the speaker wanted to make.
The presence of the speaker is another basic best practice that should be well planned. Presence includes the speaker’s manner of dress, body language and movements. Is the presenter dressed appropriately for the audience? Is the audience a group of professionals or high school students? If the speaker is giving an oral presentation to high school students, then it would not be a good idea to wear a formal tux. However, if the oral presentation is at a four star hotel to a group of professional, then a formal suit would be more appropriate.
Body language and movements lets the audience know that the speaker is alive and not a statue. The speaker should not hide behind the podium for the entire presentation. Move across the stage or down the aisles if possible. The speaker should also use hand movements to catch and hold the audience’s attention. A general rule for hand movements is that the speaker’s elbows should remain at their side and only move the arms from the elbow down to the hand. One does not want to appear as though they are trying to take flight.