Oral Presentation Skills

Director of Learning Resources Yonna McShane says:

“Effective public speaking is not just a practical skill; it is also one of the oldest of the liberal arts disciplines, extending back to Plato and Aristotle.  It encompasses studying classical rhetoric, the research and arrangement of ideas, style and memorization, and oral delivery of those ideas.  Learning how to improve your public speaking skills involves learning how to organize presentations including learning how to select content, structure a presentation from beginning to end, and connect with the audience, in addition to honing your public speaking skills.”


Oral Presentation Rubric




Title of Presentation:


The following are all important aspects of an excellent presentation. The speaking skills of the presenter (delivery), as well as the structure and content of the presentation should all be considered in the overall assessment of the quality of the oral presentation.

Rating Scale: (1) PROBLEMS   (2) GOOD    (3) VERY GOOD     (4) EXCELLENT


______ Speaker approaches the podium with an air of confidence, sets position, makes eye contact with audience, and pauses appropriately before beginning to speak.

This includes the speaker approaching the podium with good posture and traveling the distance to the podium at a brisk but controlled speed. The speaker settles in and gives the audience time to settle down and focus their attention. The speaker greets the audience with his/her eyes, generally looking at three different fixed points in the audience before beginning to speak. The speaker does this in a relaxed fashion without rushing.


______Speaker's posture is both professional and relaxed.

If speaking from a podium, the speaker's body position is professional, steady poised, but relaxed. The position is deliberate. If the speaker is not using a podium and is moving on stage or in the front of the room, the speaker should stop and set his/her position when making a specific point during the presentation. Movement should not be random.


______ Speaker makes good eye contact with audience during the presentation.

A speaker should make as much natural eye contact with the audience as he/ she can. For some speakers this will mean almost continuous eye contact and for some it will mean looking up frequently enough to stay in contact with the audience. As a general rule, periods of eye contact should last for at least two to three seconds.


_____ Speaker uses clear and appropriate language.

The speaker must keep in mind that with an oral presentation the listener has no text to refer back to for clarification of points. Use of simple and clear language is always preferable in an oral presentation. If the speaker uses "lofty" words and "talks over their audience's head" the speaker will have failed in his/her effort.


______ Speaker uses appropriate rate of speech and volume.

A speaker's rate of speech should be at a speed and volume that is comfortable for the audience to listen to. Speaking at a rate that is a bit slower than that of a normal conversational rate is a good general rule. Also, the volume must be loud enough for the audience to easily hear, but not so loud that the audience experiences the speaker as shouting. One of the most common mistakes in oral presentations is for the speaker's rate of speech to be too rapid.


______ Speaker words flow with few verbal distractions.

This includes a presentation with few "ahs" and "ums" and little or no jargon. In addition, clear annunciation and correct word pronunciation are fundamental.


______ Speaker uses gestures and non-verbal behavior appropriate for the presentation.

Speaker conveys enthusiasm, uses body language that supports the content of the presentation, and gestures that emphasize main points. The body language is congruent with what is being said.  In addition, the presentation is absent of unconscious movements including touching one's face, scratching one's head, leaning on the podium, swaying, bouncing or standing on one leg.

______ Speaker respects the time allotted for the presentation and manages the time well.

Speaker does not run too long or too short with the presentation given the assignment and allotted time. The speaker devotes enough time to each key point and section throughout the entire presentation. The end of the presentation is not rushed due to poor time management.




______The beginning of the presentation is engaging and clearly signals the start of the presentation.

The opening should capture the audience's interest and clearly convey the topic or subject of the presentation.


______The theme, thesis, purpose or central question of the talk is clearly stated.

The audience must clearly understand the subject and purpose of the talk before the end of the introduction.


______ Necessary background or other information is given to the audience during the introduction to assist the audience with clarity.

Special terms or vocabulary specific to the subject mater and necessary to understand the topic area must be clarified during the introduction.


______A clear preview of the presentations' structure and content is incorporated into the introduction.

The introduction gives the audience an adequate sense of what to expect and where the presentation is going.



The two most important aspects of the body of a presentation are the content, and the organization of that content.

______The content material is relevant, clear, up-to-date, varied and sufficient to support the thesis.


The content must support the speaker's thesis. The speaker's choice of supporting material should be adequate in quantity and of good quality. The sources cited are correctly cited. The resource materials used are credible, current, and sufficient in number for the scope of the presentation.


______The resource materials are incorporated into the content of the presentation in a creative and logical way in order to make the material that supports the thesis clear and accessible to the audience.


Specific examples are used to clarify points and to support the thesis. The key points are well supported by the resources used and there is a logical progression in the building of the argument.


______The content of the presentation reflects the speaker's high level of knowledge of the subject area.

Command of the subject area is reflected throughout the presentation.


______The organization of the presentation is clear and points are presented in a logical order. The organization of the presentation signals clear and smooth transitions between key points.


The audience must be able to easily follow the presentation. The audience for an oral presentation does not have the advantage of a person reading a paper with a thesis and argument. The speaker must keep in mind that with an oral presentation the listener has no text to refer back to for clarification of points. The listener at an oral presentation must be able to follow the logic and the points easily as the presentation progresses. If the audience can not follow, the presenter will lose the audience and fail at the presentation.



______The conclusion provides a clear summary of the key content points and reinforces the thesis or main purpose of the presentation.

The audience is refocused on the key points, thesis and purpose of the presentation. The audience's attention is galvanized on the main points and purpose of the presentation.


______The conclusion is engaging and clearly signals the end of the presentation.

The speaker restates and reinforces the position he/she has taken.  The audience experiences a sense of closure and (if appropriate) a call to action.


_______Questions are clearly and correctly answered by the speaker.

Speaker demonstrates sufficient knowledge of the material and answers the audience's questions directly.


copywrite McShane 2009