The first step in planning an oral presentation involves acknowledging two fundamental differences between oral and written communication.

One essential goal of oral communication is to make personal contact with the audience, and to help connect them to the content. Reading a written report aloud is not usually an effective strategy for engaging with the audience. The needs/preferences of the audience play an even larger role in oral presentations than in writing. The content of presentations should be prepared with this goal in mind.

Second, oral presentations are fleeting (or time-sensitive). If readers get lost or stop paying attention for a few minutes, they can always flip back a few pages. Listeners, on the other hand, usually can’t interrupt the speaker and ask that s/he start again and go back a few minutes. Once words are uttered, they vanish. Presenters can account for the fleeting nature of oral presentations by making sure that the presentation is well organized and by making structure explicit in the talk, so the audience can always knows where they’ve been and where they’re going.

This section outlines principles and strategies for planning, designing visuals for, practicing, and presenting your talk.

We also provide a Speech Outline that you can download and use to plan your presentations.