Student Oral Communication Resources

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A Brief Introduction to Oral Presentation Techniques


Vocal delivery

  • Pitch
  • Inflection
  • Volume
  • Variation
  • Pace

Body language

  • Gestures
  • Posture
  • Stance
  • Facial expression

Eye contact


  • Introduction, body, conclusion
  • Transitions

Sample Activities on Oral Presentation Techniques

Introducing oral presentation techniques

  • Have students view a speech either on video or from the website
    (I like to use M.L. King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” just because many students haven’t seen it).
  • As they view the speech, have them write down the things the speaker does that make the speech interesting or engaging.
  • Translate their lists into the three categories above: vocal delivery, body language, and eye contact.

Practicing eye contact (from the Speech Comm 212 TA Handbook)

  • Have students deliver 1-2 minute impromptu speeches, allowing them to choose from a handful of topics such as their favorite vacation, least favorite class at ISU, etc.
  • As each student gets up to speak, the rest of the class members raise their hands. The speaker must make sustained eye contact (at least three seconds) with a class member before that person can put his/her hand down. The goal is to make eye contact with each person in the class before the time runs out.

Practicing vocal delivery (from the Speech Comm 212 TA Handbook)

  • Take the class outside and have each student bring a selection that he/she can read out loud.
  • With everyone speaking at the same time, have students read their piece aloud using different vocal variations. For example, first they might read the piece as loudly as they can, then read it as quietly as they can. They might read it in a monotone and then read it making their voices go up and down like a roller coaster. They might read it in a low, deep voice and then read it in a high-pitched squeaky voice. The goal is to help them realize that they CAN change their vocal delivery to improve their oral presentation.
Submitted by Sabrina Shields-Cook for the O-Fair, Feb. 27, 2007

Poster Presentation: Audience Role

Because successful communication depends on collaborative efforts between communicator and audience, your role as an audience for the poster presentations is as important as your role as speaker. Consider these three components of the audience role:

anticipatory listening. Since speakers typically structure some time for audience participation, you need to anticipate this opportunity. For the poster presentation, view the posters in advance of the presentation if possible. Make mental notes about questions you want answered or questions that might stimulate the speaker to fill in more details on the documented event. Follow the guidelines for interview questions, forming questions that elicit narratives, clarify purposes, tap the speaker’s personal perspective, etc.

active listening. How can I benefit from this presentation? How can I connect it with my own interests and experiences? How can I become a better communicator by observing this presentation? What should I be preserving from this presentation? Is the speaker’s message reasonable, well-documented from reliable sources? What are the speaker’s major biases? By thinking about such questions during the presentation, you become an active participant in a silent discussion that both engages you and raises valuable issues for later discussion. Part of our civic responsibility is to listen to others critically, skeptically, open-mindedly, to explore information with fairness and diligence. Practicing such responsible listening on all occasions prepares us for those times when issues are particularly important.

ethical listening. Empathize with the speaker. Given the stress associated with public speaking, do whatever you can to put the speaker at ease. Show with your eyes, facial expression, and body language that you are interested in the subject matter and respect the speaker’s work in putting together this presentation for your benefit. A laugh, a smile, a confirming nod—these simple responses can encourage and calm a speaker. If a speaker seems in trouble, think immediately about ways to help. If there are distractions (videotaping, camera flashes, technical difficulties), maintain your focus on the speaker. If a speaker freezes, you might politely ask for permission to ask a question in advance of the Q and A period; then follow with an informational, nonthreatening question. If a speaker is in physical distress, offer immediate support and aid. If a speaker has failed to attract a minimal audience for the presentation, join that group. If a speaker says something blatantly inaccurate or offensive, raise the issue during the Q&A period but in the spirit of open discussion, not confrontation. Otherwise your silence in effect condones offensive speech.


  • On the day of presentation, arrive early if possible and observe the posters closely. Decide which presentations you most want to attend.
  • Once the presentations begin, they’ll shift every five minutes. With two-minute presentations, two-minute Q&A periods, and a minute to re-form groups, it is a tight schedule. Move between groups efficiently. Help keep the event on schedule.
  • Expect some visitors to drop in for the presentations. Faculty are interested in some of the WOVE activities in ISUComm classes and may join our event.
  • If you have not identified yourself on your poster, mention your name as part of your presentation.
  • You will be given a quick response evaluation form on which to mark your first, second, and third choice for best posters and best poster presentations for each day.
Submitted by Don Payne, Iowa State University, for"Creating and Assessing Posters workshop, May 30, 2006