Wrapping Up: Tips for Oral Presentations

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Sunday, July 30, 2017


Jacob Robertson

The past ten weeks have flown by, and now it's time to start preparing for our final presentations. Many summer internship programs require a final presentation and the specifics (oral or poster, duration, etc.) vary based on the exact position. For the SPS internship program, each intern is required to give an 10 minute oral presentation (8 minutes speaking and 2 minutes for questions) on the final day. While the "best practices" for a presentation vary based on the content and format, here's some points I've been keeping in mind for my final presentation. 

Tell a story. Don't be afraid to make your presentation personal. Talk about your experience (failures and obstacles included) and end with some transformation. Use your PowerPoint or Keynote simply as a visual support for your narrative. Use little text, if any. You need to tell the story, not the screen. 

Keep it simple. It's possible to go into too much detail and become boring. Especially for short-format talks, give a good overview but don't waste time being too specific. If you audience wants clarification or more details, they will ask during the question time. 

Practice. While many students (and even professionals) wait until the last minute to plan a talk, very few people are actually capable of "winging it." If I have enough notice, I begin several weeks in advance. I consider my storyline for several days, then write it down on paper as an outline. Next, I'll start drafting my PowerPoint or Keynote and scripting. While many people suggest against scripting talks, I alway do. However, it's important not to try and memorize the script word-for-word. I loosely memorize the talking points of the script and treat it more as an detailed outline than a script.

Most importantly, relax! On the day of your talk, wake up early, eat breakfast, and arrive early. Before you speak, drink some water and take deep breaths. You'll do great! 

Jacob Robertson