BISC110:Guidelines for oral presentations

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Wellesley College BISC110 Introduction to Cell Biology
Spring 2010

Tips for Oral Presentations

The following tips from the PLTC Oral Presentation Peer-Tutors will help guide you in the development of your oral presentation.


  • Keep it simple!
  • Keep to the time limit. ( presentation + Q&A)


  • What is my purpose?
  • Who is my audience?
  • What do they already know about the topic?
  • What information will they find relevant? interesting? amusing?
  • If the information is controversial, what is the audience’s position, attitude or reaction likely to be?
  • What information might I include/leave out?


  • Engage the audience with your first sentence; don’t mistake your first sentence for your introduction.
  • Use clear and simple topic sentences and transitions.
  • How might I organize the material?
  • Use scientific format to your advantage
    • Introduction (catch attention, set up problem, broad/specific questions, hypothesis, etc.)
    • Method (experimental design, set-up, etc.)
    • Results (what did you find, statistical significance, graph/table?)
    • Conclusion (explain what it all means, future directions, limitations, etc.)
  • Have I made the structure of my talk clear to the audience?


  • Practice enough so you avoid reading aloud.
  • Nerves: if you know your material, nerves can only give you an extra boost of energy.
  • Make sure you know how to use your visual aids with your presentation; practice on the technology you will be using.
  • Look enthusiastic, confident, and sincere—don’t use weak words (just, really).
  • Make eye contact in slow sweeps of the room (make “M” or “W” scans across the audience).
  • Stand still; balanced on both feet.
  • Any gestures or movements should appear natural and fit with what you are saying.
  • Voice: watch for Volume, Clarity, Variety and Inflection!¬¬¬
  • Watch for fillers: ah, umm, like, you know, OK.
  • Talk slowly, remember the power of the silent pause—write in pauses if it helps.
  • When giving a group presentation:
  • Pay attention to the transitions
  • Look interested and attentive when your team members are presenting.
  • Anticipate questions: what are the weak points of your argument?
  • When answering questions:
    • Don’t be defensive or roll your eyes.
    • Don’t rush to answer—remember, pauses can be powerful.
    • Smile your way through your mistakes


  • Follow the guidelines of your instructor (clear colors, spacing, visuals, etc).
  • Give the audience a second to take in the poster and skim through it before beginning (to decrease distraction).
  • Reference the poster in a logical fashion
  • Don’t make your audience have to read everything
  • If pointing, make it exact. Turn towards the poster, find the spot, turn back, and then begin talking while facing the audience.
  • Other ideas: Props from experiments, model, handout, etc.
  • Summarize quotations in your own words, drawing attention to their specific significance.
  • Conclusion:
    • Sum up the 1 or 2 main points you wanted to make.
    • Recapture your audience with your final statement; end on a high note.
  • Prepare an outline or note cards.
  • Use single key words.
  • Number them!