Oral Report Guidelines

Preparation of the Oral Report
Presentation of the Oral Report


General Information

The oral presentations will be 20 minutes long, plus 5 minutes left for questions at the end. The presentations need to be prepared on transparencies. Copiers, ink-jet printers, and laser printers can all be used to print on transparency media. Please note that transparency media compatible with one device are not generally compatible with the others. An overhead projector and a pointer will be provided at the presentations.

If the project has a primary author, the primary author should present the results, discussion, and conclusions of the project. This is expected to take (approximately) the last 10 minutes of the presentation. The first 10 minutes should be devoted to introducing the project and to discussing the experimental design the group followed and the apparatus and materials used. These first 10 minutes should be equally divided among the other group members.

If the project does not have a primary author, each member of the group should present for a similar length of time. The topics covered by each person are up to the group to decide.


Preparation of the Oral Report

The oral report should comprise the following:

(1). Title transparency
(2). Introduction
(3). Materials and Methods
(4). Results and Discussion
(5). Conclusions

The purpose - that is, what needs to be communicated - of each section is identical to the written report. However, there are significant differences in how an oral presentation is organized:

  • Formal headings to identify the sections of an oral presentation are not required.

  • The title page should identify the full name of the project, the name of the principal author (if applicable), and the names of the other (collaborating) group members.

  • In contrast to a written report, in an oral presentation the stating of results and their analysis and discussion are often done concurrently. Even if full discussion of results is not given immediately, a brief mention of how the results will be used later assists the audience with comprehending their significance and in anticipating what is to come.

  • In an oral presentation, information is best conveyed through visual content (graphs, drawings, illustrations), accompanied by a clear verbal explanation provided by the speaker. A transparency can include some written text, but it should be kept to an absolute minimum. Short descriptive phrases work better than long sentences. Bulletted lists can be used to organize short phrases or short sentences, if appropriate. There should be no paragraphs of text. The speaker carries the responsibility of explaining what is shown; the audience should not be expected to read this explanation from the transparencies.

  • Ideally, a transparency has a single purpose (ex. description of apparatus, discussion of a graph, comparison of different data sets, description of a data analysis method, presentation of conclusions, etc.). Overcrowded transparencies that strive to cover multiple topics will most likely be confusing to the audience. Before an overhead is designed, its purpose should be clearly identified.

  • The length of an oral presentation is limited. Foremost, the presentation must focus on a clear depiction of the most important information. Details that do not meaningfully contribute should be left out. Deciding what to include requires subjective judgment. It should be kept in mind that the audience can always ask for more detail if they wish.

  • Letters and numbers must be sufficiently large so that the audience can read them. Generally, no font smaller than 14 points should be used. Depending on the setup of the projector and the size of the presentation area, larger font may be needed.

  • Table, graph, and figure guidelines are similar to those for the written report. Particular attention should be paid to ensuring that lines on graphs are thick enough to be easily visible and that the quality of figures is sufficient to resolve. Always, all graph axes must be labelled and the units of measure shown if applicable. To minimize the reading load placed on the audience, captions should be kept as brief as possible.

  • Citations to the work of others are generally displayed directly on the transparency on which that work is referred to by the speaker, not on a separate page at the end of the presentation. Often, it is sufficient to list the authors, the title (name of book or journal), and the year of publication, though full citations can be used if desired.

  • A rough rule of thumb is that a transparency will require two minutes of explanation. Therefore, for a 20 minute presentation, about 10 transparencies should be prepared.


  • Presentation of the Oral Report

    Organization and clarity are the key ingredients of a solid presentation, but good delivery can make it outstanding.
  • The speaker's attitude should be professional. It is important to be open to the questions, suggestions, or comments from the audience. If a question is beyond the speaker's ability to answer fully, the best answer possible should be given. There is nothing wrong in admitting the limits of one's knowledge, saying, for example, "We have not yet considered that.." or "That's a good point, we should go back and examine it in greater detail...". Criticism, when justified, should be accepted gracefully and learned from. Incorrect criticism should be politely explained away by clearly stating how the particular objection is inapplicable or can be remedied.

  • It is good practice to remind the audience of key facts as needed - especially if a central idea pertinent to the current discussion was already shown several transparencies ago.

  • The textual content of a transparency should not be read word for word by the speaker - the audience should be allowed to read it for themselves. Instead, the speaker should describe the content of the transparency in their own words so as to best enhance the effectiveness of the presentation.

  • Speech should be inflected. Speaking in a monotone makes it easy to lose the attention of the audience.

  • Posing questions, even rhetorical ones (i.e. ones the speaker plans to answer), to the audience will stimulate thought and serve to better retain attention.

  • Making eye contact with the audience also helps retain their attention.

  • An animated speaker, up to a point, will enliven the presentation. An overly animated speaker becomes more interesting than the presentation.

  • If a blackboard is available, it is perfectly acceptable to draw on it to supplement the transparencies in conveying the subject matter.


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