Oral Communication FAQ for Students
  • I need to give a presentation, not a speech. How can the OC website help?

    You can find resources on organizing visual aids under Planning a Presentation and Developing a Presentation.


    I am terrified! What do you suggest?

    First, know that public speaking anxiety is completely normal. The key to getting past your fear is extensive planning and practice. If you truly know your material well, and have run through it many times, your fear will be significantly reduced. In addition, remember that you have a helpful audience – your classmates want you to succeed!


    I just know I’ll make a fool of myself or at least look silly. Help!

    Practice, practice, practice! Ask your friends to be your audience, and to help you polish your presentation. We always think we do worse than we actually do when it comes to public speaking – that is a natural response. Practice, relax, and succeed.


    What is the alternative to reading from my PowerPoint slides? That is, if I shouldn’t read, then what SHOULD I do?

    We’ve all seen it – the person who reads their slides word for word. At least until we fell asleep from boredom! PowerPoint is meant to be an aid, not a transcript. Use PowerPoint for key terms and ideas, for broad outlines, and for images, graphs, and other things that illustrate or help explain the ideas in your speech.


    How many words are appropriate on a PowerPoint slide?

    Different people have different opinions on this topic, but as a maximum, many believe in the “rule of sixes:” no more than six words per line, no more than six lines per page. This means about 36 words on a given slide, maximum.


    When is the use of animation within PowerPoint appropriate?

    If you are using a computer that you have already tested for compatibility with animation (some are not powerful enough), animation should be used mainly when it advances the meaning that you are trying to get across to the audience. In other words, don’t use it just to use it – use it when it explains something effectively.


    Should I provide handouts?

    This is up to the student (and teacher). Handouts are often good reminders of what you covered in your speech, and a good backup if your PowerPoint or other visual aids should fail. However, if possible, you should wait until AFTER your speech to distribute them, as your audience will spend your presentation reading them rather than paying attention to you.


    Are the skills on this site appropriate to all classes?

    Yes! The pages of this site teach effective oral communication skills, which can be useful in every class as well as in the working world.