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Chapter 8: Oral Reports

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    Anna Goins; Cheryl Rauh; Danielle Tarner; and Daniel Von Holten

    Learning Objectives


    In the workplace, many writing projects are partnered with presentations, which translate documents into easily accessible information for a live audience.

    Some common scenarios for workplace presentations can include:

    • Training workshops for employees at your company.
    • Presenting research findings to a group of senior managers.
    • Sharing your company’s services with the goal of getting new sales leads.

    In the workplace, you may often have to adapt information into an effective presentation to share with others in situations like these and more.

    Analyzing Audience and Constraints

    Each presentation situation is unique. Start by utilizing the same strategies for analyzing and planning for writing mentioned in introduction. Then, before you begin outlining your presentation’s structure and content, consider the following constraints specific to presentations:

    • What do you know about your audience members? What unites them as a group?
    • What do you want your audience to do after hearing the information in your presentation?
    • What questions are they likely to raise?

    Once you have considered the presentation’s audience, you can begin planning your presentation by answering the following questions:

    • Will you be presenting alone or with a group?
    • How much time do you have?
    • What kinds of visual aids and technology will you be able to use?
    • How far away will the most distant audience members be seated or standing?
    • What are the expectations in terms of the level of formality for your presentation?

    Types of Presentations

    Once you’ve identified your purpose and defined your audiences, you can identify the type of presentation you need to give and what strategies to employ. Typically, a presentation will employ elements of more than one of the types listed below.


    Informative presentations might involve simply reporting information or explaining concepts, applications, or methods to your audience. A presentation on annual sales numbers and scenarios 1 and 3 listed above both fall into this category.


    This type of presentation could be meant to influence the audience’s point of view or convince the audience to follow a particular course of action. Typically, this will involve presenting evidence and logical arguments in addition to engaging your audience. A proposal could be a type of persuasive presentation as could any sales related presentation like scenario 4 listed above.


    These types of presentations frequently show up at special events like weddings, award ceremonies, and even funerals, and are generally performed as a speech with little to no visual aid. The purpose is to generate goodwill and basically have a positive impact on the audience’s emotional state. In a professional setting, you may have to give a talk at a special event like an employee of the year celebration or celebrations of special events related to your company or the company’s location. Something like scenario 2 could be likely if your company invests in community relations. They differ from other presentations that they frequently serve a ceremonial or even ritual-like role in their setting.

    Presentation Formats

    It could be argued that there are as many formats for presentations as there are presentations, but we will look at a few general formats to get some ideas on how you might form your presentation.


    This format is probably what you envision when you think of a formal presentation or speech—the presenter talks while the audience is silent. There typically isn’t dialog between the speaker and audience. The only communication between them may be non-verbal. An advantage of this style is that it is easy to execute once you’ve prepared for it. A disadvantage is that it may leave an audience with unanswered questions.


    This approach is often, but not always, less formal and allows for greater interaction with the audience. While the presenter may spend some time presenting information or an argument, much of the time is focused on responding to questions from the audience. A town-hall-style talk or a sales meeting with a small group of clients might take this form. This format can create a strong sense of engagement with the audience, but preparing for it is more challenging as the presenter needs to be able to adapt to questions, but also keep the presentation on topic.

    Group Presentation Formats

    Group presentations will typically use features of the formats listed above, but may differ in how the group members relate to each other.

    Group Integrated

    Group members give parts of one integrated presentation. Members may take turns speaking or split topics of the presentation between them. They may act out scenarios together at points if that is the most effective means of communicating their concept. The key here is that despite having several presenters, there is a clear sense that it is all one presentation. This type of presentation takes a lot of coordination and practice between group members to be effective.

    Group Divided

    You may see something like this as a panel talk at a professional or academic conference. Each group member gives an individual presentation, but each presentation relates to the others.

    Structuring a Workplace Presentation

    An effective presentation will be easy to absorb and remember. When reading, a person can stop, pause, and reread if they didn’t catch a point the first time. Unfortunately, unless a presentation is being recorded and made accessible online, if the listener misses something, there’s no way to go back and catch it again. As a result, adapting your writing into a memorable presentation requires distilling your content into a more focused verbal presentation. From there, the keys to helping your audience remember your most important points are repetition and emphasis.

    As in writing, you want to include transitions to guide your audience in following your structure. Transitions will not only guide your audience, but are an example of using repetition and emphasis to help your audience retain the key points of your presentation. Plan on including one or two sentences much like you do in writing to transition between the opening, body, major points within the body, and your presentation’s close. For example, in a presentation discussing ways to retain employees within your company you could include a transition between your first and second main points. In this example, a transition could be something like, “Before we look at several key strategies for retaining employees, let’s take a moment to review the major causes of employee separation from our company.”

    Now, let’s look at strategies for structuring and organizing the opening, body, and close of your presentation.

    Opening a Presentation

    One of the best ways to assure your audience members take note of what’s important in your presentation is to catch their attention quickly and set up clear expectations for what they can expect to learn. Consider choosing from some of the following strategies:

    1. Create a hook to catch the audience’s interest.
      You don’t want to include an arbitrary gimmick, but you can engage the audience by telling a connected joke, asking an engaging, thought-provoking question, sharing an interesting and relevant anecdote, or perhaps a memorable quote. When considering a hook, just be sure to retain the appropriate level of professional formality.
    2. Establish your credibility.
      Introduce yourself/group members and share your credentials. Tell the audience what qualifies you to speak on the topic.
    3. Define a purpose or objective.
      If the purpose of a presentation is very clearly defined in goal form, listeners are much more prepared to think about your presentation and to recognize what’s important.
    4. Provide an agenda or overview.
      An agenda maps out the structure of the presentation and helps the audience to prepare for the significant sections. By sharing the major talking points, the audience will be ready to listen and absorb when you get to items of importance. Doing so also allows your audience to anticipate what’s upcoming and establishes a clear outline to organize your presentation.
    5. Offer background information on your subject.
      If necessary for your audience and before transitioning into your presentation’s main points, provide the pertinent background information.

    Organizing Body of a Presentation

    This section is where you will address and develop the main points of your topic. As a result, this section will take up most of the time allotted for your presentation.

    1. Establish an organizational pattern that suits your purpose.
      You can choose from other organizational patterns used in writing such as chronological, problem-solution, spatial, or any other logical structure your audience will be able to easily follow. For example, an informative talk could be organized to cover points moving from the general to more specific.
    2. Clearly state and develop your main points.
      Be up front about your point and offer supporting evidence and examples. Some ways to develop your content are by referencing case studies, telling relevant stories, providing concrete examples, and showing data and results. Additionally, you can help your audience to recognize main points by repeating them in your visuals and using verbal cues that acknowledge their importance.

    Closing a Presentation

    It is important to end a presentation as strongly as you began. Audiences tend to remember the opening and closing of a presentation, so avoid rushing through this section; ultimately, your ending provides an opportunity to once again emphasize and repeat your key points.

    1. Bring the presentation back to the agenda. Signal the end of your presentation by restating your main points just like you do in your writing.
    2. Offer any recommendations.These recommendations should be based on the information and evidence provided in the body of your presentation.
    3. Give your audience something to do with the information you shared: Make a call to action or give them a question to reflect on, etc.
    4. Solicit questions.You may want to transition into a Q & A at the end of your talk.
    5. Thank your audience.

    Visual Tools to Support Your Talk

    Visuals are a great way to support your verbal points in a presentation. So what makes an effective presentation visual?

    1. Be consistent. When designing your visual aids, repeat patterns, font selection and size, and limit the complexity of slides helps readers to recognize important information and to process information more efficiently.
    2. Keep text simple and minimal. Think of text in visuals as an emphasis tool. Too much text can draw attention away from your message. Images should be used to add depth to verbal content. For example, limit the number of bullet points on a slide to 4-6.
    3. Use accessible design. As with document design, be mindful of the readability of your visual. Also, think about what the type you choose conveys to your audience.
    4. Integrate visuals. Don’t just show them; talk about them, and gesture to them.
    5. Consider culture. If your audience includes individuals from a culture different than your own, be mindful of avoiding jargon, cliché, and slang. In general, it’s good practice to select visuals that are culturally inclusive.

    When creating slides or other visual tools, plan to spend about approximately 1-2 minutes on each visual or slide. Lastly, you may want to review and adapt the principles of effective design.

    Delivery Techniques

    Our best advice for successfully delivering presentations is to practice using any technology you intend to use in your talk.

    • Speak clearly, maintain a pace your audience can follow, use an appropriate volume to ensure your audience can hear you, and avoid speaking in monotone by adjusting your pitch.
    • Remember to clearly introduce each point and connect it to the needs of the audience (i.e. “Here’s why this matters to you”). You should plan clear verbal transitions between points to help audience members’ transition from one point to the next.
    • Make eye content with your audience. You want to avoid reading from notes and not engaging your audience through eye contact. Notecards and slides are meant to guide your talk, not to act as a script.
    • Engage the audience through movement and gestures that draw audience attention to supporting visuals and to you as needed by the content.
    • Maintain professionalism. Establish and maintain your credibility by dressing professionally, adhering to the timeline, and referencing your source materials.
    • Be aware of time. You may have someone helping you keep track of time, but without practice you will still find yourself either rushing towards the end or finishing earlier than expected.
    • Respond to audience feedback. If a Q& A follows your presentation, be prepared to answer questions.


    1. As a student, you see lots of presentations every week. In small groups, discuss some of your classes. What presentation formats do your professors use? How do they use verbal and visual strategies to emphasize information?
    2. Watch “The Impotence of Proofreading” by poet Taylor Mali. Pay attention to how he uses body language, eye contact, tone, and pauses to create emphasis and engage his audience.
    3. Look at several PowerPoint presentations online. Which ones were the best and why? What could be done to improve the least effective presentation slides?

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    Chapter 8: Oral Reports by Anna Goins; Cheryl Rauh; Danielle Tarner; and Daniel Von Holten is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

    Chapter 8: Oral Reports is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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