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How to Deliver a Good Oral Presentation

For many students, this is the most nerve-wracking, if not terrifying, bit of the entire experience. Help your students by building in plenty of prep and practice time in the classroom and at home. Teachers might suggest having students pair up and take turns being mock audience members. Remind them to be respectful listeners and give examples of helpful questions to ask.

Parents can help by making themselves available to listen and watch practice presentations. The week before, come up with questions to get your child accustomed to the question-and-answer format. Make it fun, rather than stressful. Ask questions at the dinner table, in the car, but don’t drive them crazy. Help them anticipate obvious and not-so-obvious questions. Ideally, this will help them realize on their own that they need to keep on learning new things about their topic!

Based on the child’s age, temperament, and level of enthusiasm, they may perceive any of these pointers as nagging or interference. If that’s the case, encourage them to read the following tips, written by someone other than yourself!

Tips for the student:

Before the science fair:

Make sure your oral presentation has a good introduction and conclusion. In addition to framing the presentation, this provides a natural way to ease in and out of the serious scientific report. You’ll be able to speak in friendlier manner and add some of your own personality to the presentation. (But not too much personality. This is a science fair after all, not a comedy show—keep it professional.)

Practice, practice, practice. Practice in front of the mirror, in the shower, whenever you have time and wherever you see fit. Ask for parents or relatives to take turns listening. If no one’s available, a teddy bear or family pet makes a great captive audience.

Ask a friend to practice with you. Take turns listening and asking questions.

Practice in front of your display board and with any additional visual aids. Practice pointing to relevant features, and make sure your audience can see what you’re pointing to.

Time your oral presentation to ensure it’s within the time limit allowed.

At the science fair:

Be yourself. (Scientists are regular people too.)

Thank the judges for coming to learn about your project. (They are volunteers.)

Wear something comfortable yet professional.

Make eye contact with judges and visitors. Maintain eye contact when not reading notes.

Avoid saying “uhm” and “like.”

Don’t chew gum.

Keep a drink of water on hand; it’s okay to take a sip if your voice gets hoarse.

Don’t talk too quickly. If you catch yourself racing ahead, take a deep breath and slow down.

Pay attention to your posture and body language. Stand up straight and try not to fidget.

Be serious, but not stiff.

Use gestures to emphasize the most important points.

Be honest—if you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay to say so. Scientists will tell you they don’t know all the answers either.

Show enthusiasm for your subject!

Be sure to thank the judges again at the end of your presentation.