Things markers love and hate in oral presentations

There are a lot of things to think about when you are delivering an oral presentation – far more than just putting together a script and reading it to your audience.

It’s important that students remember that oral presentations are about making a positive impression upon your audience – and particularly on your markers.

To help you achieve this, it’s worth thinking about the ‘Halo Effect’. This is when people are highly influenced by first impressions, or – as explained by The Economist, people make decisions “based on lopsided or distorted information…overvaluing certain attributes while undervaluing others.”

So, what are the things that students might do during an oral presentation to help themselves to make a good impression on their markers? And what are the things that cause a ‘Reverse Halo Effect’ because they are things that make students look unprepared, uninterested or immature when they present?

Things to do to create a good impression Things to avoid as they’ll make a poor impression
Make regular eye contact with your audience and markers. To achieve this, you need to have practiced your speech regularly before delivering it so that you can remember a number of things you are going to say. Read all of your presentation straight from your notes. Remember, your speech is a “presentation”, not a reading.
Time your presentation prior to delivering it. Delivering a presentation that does not come close to reaching the minimum time requirement, or that goes so far overtime that you’re unable to deliver it all. This suggests that you haven’t prepared for your presentation in the way that is expected.
If you are analysing a film, choose the best scenes or clips from the film to show/analyse during your presentation. Showing a scene from a film purely because it’s one that you can find on YouTube.
Think about how to engage your audience. Present as if you couldn’t care less as to whether or not your audience is listening to you.
Prior to your presentation, ensure that you have any pieces of video/audio lined up and ready to start when you need them. If possible, embed all of your clips into one visual presentation through PowerPoint or Google Slides. Taking time in the middle of your presentation to line up a video or audio clip to use. This often takes away from the power of whatever argument you are making.
Before you deliver your presentation, test all of your audio/visual equipment to ensure it’s working. As you do this, if you’re showing clips from YouTube, make sure autoplay is turned off. Find yourself continuing to speak after watching a clip, only to find that a random YouTube video starts to play as you’ve left autoplay on.
If you’re talking about a novel or film and you need to give your audience some background information on the plot, do it quickly. Use images of the characters to help you with this, so that it’s easier to follow for your audience. Spend most of your presentation explaining the plot of a text rather than actually answering the question you’ve been asked.
Have a clear thesis (argument), that you introduce very early in your presentation. Leave your audience and markers wondering what your line of argument is until late in your presentation.
When you are speaking, either use palm cards, or leave a page of small notes on the table/lectern in front of you and refer to them when needed. Throwing or dropping your palm cards when you have finished each of them. It implies that you don’t care about what you have just said. Also, try not to have a full A4 page of notes with you, as if you become lost during your presentation, it takes much longer for you to find where you are.
Finish with a proper conclusion, leading up to a powerful and engaging final statement. Finish your presentation without a proper conclusion, as if all of your arguments don’t deserve revisiting, and instead you just say “That’s it” or “Thanks for listening”.


Other relevant pages on Opening Class:

What’s expected in an oral presentation

Example Speakers