Speaking in Academic Contexts

Presenting a seminar paper: Using notes

  1. Your speaking style should be less formal and more personal than the written style. This style will be much easier to achieve if you speak from notes rather tan reading a prepared talk. Speaking from notes allows you to be more flexible and to adjust your talk to the audience. You will communicate better if you look at your audience most of the time.
  2. Read your paper carefully and make notes. Concentrate only on the main points. Ignore details. See Reading: Taking Notes
  3. Write out your notes so you can use them easily. Use large writing, bold headings and colours, clear indentations, highlighting, bullet points and numbering.
  4. Many people make notes on 6cm x 10cm cards to guide them through their presentation. Usually, each card contains one main point and a few key words that are easily seen with a simple glance. Make sure you number your cards in case you drop them.
  5. In the presentation, speak from the outline notes. But bring your original paper to the meeting, in case it is needed. Do not read your original paper directly.
  6. Look at your audience when you are speaking. Connect with your audience - make eye contact.
  7. When you're using notes, do not try to make a secret of it. Don't worry about pausing to read.
  8. Hold your notes in one hand at between waist and shoulder level, where they can be seen easily.
  9. First look at your notes and read the appropriate part silently. Remember one important idea.
  10. Then look up at your audience, make eye contact, and say what you have to say. It is useful to divide the audience into 4 or 5 large groups and make sure you look at every group regularly.
  11. Speak loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear you.
  12. Speak slowly and clearly. Emphasise key words.
  13. Use silence for emphasis when you can.
  14. Go back to 9.
  15. Never speak while you are still reading. You lose eye-contact and natural speech rhythms.
  16. While you look at your audience, try to judge what they are thinking. Are they following you?
  17. Do not try to memorise your whole presentation.
  18. Prepare well. During your preparation you will become completely familiar with every part of your presentation. Practise out loud, until you're comfortable delivering your presentation with your notes.
  19. Rehearse as many times as you need to. Practise in front of a mirror to get your eye-contact right.
  20. Make sure your timing is right.
  21. Record yourself and listen.
  22. Practise on your friends.