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Year 12 English: tips for oral presentations

We all know oral presentations are a big deal in year 12. Your mark makes up a significant proportion of your final study score in VCE English. Your Point of View speech is worth 40% of the grade awarded for Unit 4 alone.

Juliet Austin, lecturer at Deakin University’s Faculty of Arts and Education, and Jason Jewell, Year 12 English teacher at McKinnon Secondary College, share their top tips for nailing your oral presentation.

Research and plan

To set yourself up for success, start by conducting thorough research into what makes a great speech. This will help you ensure the script of your speech has plenty of interesting, powerful and persuasive language devices, Jewell says. ‘You should listen to speeches such as TED Talks and observe politicians in the media – all of which model effective verbal and non-verbal communication skills aimed at persuading a target audience.’

Austin suggests a great way to cut down on stress is to ensure you’re well prepared ahead of time and have a really clear understanding of the task.

‘You know your dates in advance, so check with your teacher and make sure that you’re really clear about what you have to do and what materials you can use,’ she advises.

When it comes to drafting your speech, it’s important to make sure your presentation has a structure, Austin says. ‘You really have to have your audience in the back of your mind. What’s interesting to them? What grabs their attention?’

Cue cards can be a great tool, but Austin says they can also be a major distraction. ‘Take some time to figure out if you really need every word written out or just dot points. You know how you work best,’ she says.

'‘You really have to have your audience in the back of your mind. What’s interesting to them? What grabs their attention?’'

Juliet Austin,
Deakin University

Practice makes perfect

Jewell suggests recording yourself delivering the full version of your presentation in order to identify any ways you could improve.

‘You need to practice your speech a great deal before the actual task in class, so that you do not rely on notes or cards too much and can speak directly to all members of the audience using your eyes, facial expressions and gestures, to show them how passionate you are about the contention you have chosen,’ he says.

Remember that it’s common to speed up when you’re nervous.

‘Ensure your stance is confident, including enough pauses between points, stressing words for effect, using visual materials and not speaking too quickly,’ he says.

Austin says you might also need to take into consideration the classroom you will be delivering your presentation in. ‘Have a think… do I need to project myself louder if I’m in a wider room?’

Back yourself up

We’ve all done it. The night before your presentation, you’ve dissected your work with your classmates, leaving you feeling insecure and unsure of your hard work.

‘Don’t stay up all night the night before. You need to be fresh. The worst thing you can do if you’re feeling anxious is stay up all night comparing presentations,’ Austin warns.

‘Try not to also hang around too much before your presentation with other nervous people. There’s no need. Afterwards, don’t feel like you have to engage in a deep post mortem discussion about how everyone went. Once it’s done, it’s done. No need to hash over it.’

And her number one tip? ‘Don’t forget to smile!’

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Juliet Austin
Juliet Austin

Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University

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