North Central College - Naperville, IL

Oral Presentation Guidelines

Your oral presentation will be limited to 12 minutes, with 3 minutes allotted for questions. Session moderators will strictly enforce these time limits. The goal of your presentation should be to tell your audience one central message within these 12 minutes. Once you have decided what your central message is (e.g., there are cross-cultural differences in attitudes toward mental illness), you need to make sure that you do not stray too far from it. Please adhere to the following guidelines in preparing for your talk:

  • Assume that your audience will have a limited ability to comprehend complex ideas while listening to a short research presentation. This is particularly true when your audience is not in your field of expertise. This does not mean you should give only an overview, but you may have to narrow the scope of your work to explain the details thoroughly of a smaller part of your research.
  • Use visual aids. Appropriate methods include slides (either shown on a traditional projector or via Power Point) and transparencies shown on an overhead projector.
    • Use a large font (at least 18 point) to display text
    • Limit text to bullet points
    • Be sure that the colors you use for the background and the text will provide enough contrast
    for your audience to see the text
    • Use charts and graphs to illustrate findings whenever possible
  • Include only the most important features of your project in your talk. This may mean that you do not talk about minor details of the project that you know about and find interesting. Sometimes you can offer these details during the question time after your talk. Remember to relate everything to your central message
  • Structure your talk as you would a paper. Give your audience an idea of what you intended to do and why, talk about what you did and how you did it, say what you found, and summarize by talking about why you think these findings are important or how you could expand upon the project in the future.
  • Practice delivering your talk in front of other people. Be sure that you don’t run over time, that you are speaking clearly and loudly enough, and that people are understanding your central message.
  • Talk to your faculty sponsor about the appropriate way to deliver your talk. In some disciplines it is appropriate to read a paper. In others, it is not appropriate to read from a paper but instead you should talk to the audience as if you were telling them a story—the story of you and your project. Use the slides or overheads to refer to your points, but speak to the audience, not the screen.