Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Careers

A guide to oral presentation skills

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 01 October 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:0510376
  1. Arun Natarajan, clinical research associate (cardiology)1,
  2. John A Kirby, professor of immunobiolog2
  1. 1University of Newcastle and Freeman Hospital
  2. 2Department of Surgery, Medical School, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Arun Natarajan and John A Kirby provide practical advice on how to make the most out of your oral presentation

Oral presentations form an integral part of a trainee doctor's work life. However small it may be, speaking to anaudience can be a daunting task, especially for beginners.

The basics

Body language - Be confident. You can get away with blunders if you are supremely confident. Do not hide behind your pulpit, but confront your audience instead. Be enthusiastic, and smile where appropriate. If you are not enthusiastic about your own presentation you cannot expect your audience to be. Dressing smartly and appropriately helps to impress even more. Hand gestures can be used to emphasise an interesting point, but do not overuse them. Use laser pointers freely, and if the little red dot on the screen gets shaky, use both hands to grip the pointer.

Vocalisation - Talk loudly, clearly, and, most importantly, slowly. Keep the talking terse and focused. Remember, a good proportion of the audience may not be native English speakers, and many may not be particularly knowledgeable about your field. Rather than talking in a constant drone, try to pause between sentences and emphasise punctuations and important points. This helps the audience to understand you better. Do not read the slides! Learn at least the first two sentences of your talk. Link one slide to the next in order to maintain continuity. It is useful to hint at the next slide before revealing it, inducing an air of expectation. If using abbreviations, …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription