Oral Communication

Selecting the Content

The content of your presentation will reflect how well you know and understand your chosen subject or topic. It is an opportunity for you to present the knowledge that you have gained. However, a common mistake is to spend too long researching your topic and gathering too much information, and not leaving enough time to craft it into a presentation.

Generating and organising your ideas

Brainstorming is the name given to a useful process for generating lots of ideas. Click here for guidance on how to brainstorm effectively. Once you have some ideas creating a mind map is a good way to begin to explore the scope of what you can cover, what you will leave out, and how your points will relate and follow on from each other. Click on this link a video of Tony Buzan (creator of the Mind Map) talking about how to create mind maps. Click here for an example of a mind map.

The Art of Rhetoric

When preparing a presentation, particularly those designed to persuade your audience that your message is important or your ideas are valid, it is useful to develop the art of rhetoric. Aristotle defined rhetoric as the art of "discovering all available means of persuasion in any given case" (Stott, Young and Bryan, 2004: 41) and classified these means of persuasion into three categories:

  • Ethos - persuading through personality. Refers to the trustworthiness and credibility of the speaker. May be conveyed through tone and style. (Greek for 'character')
  • Pathos - persuading by arousing the audience's emotions. Presenters values and beliefs may be revealed. (Greek for 'passion')
  • Logos - persuading by the use of reasoning. Requires strength of argument and effective supporting evidence. (Greek for 'word')

Depending on the topic and purpose of your presentation you would probably draw more on one of the above categories than another. For example, if you were trying to persuade an audience to reduce their carbon footprint you might use scientific data to support your argument (logos), show shocking images to raise awareness about the damage we are doing to the environment (pathos) and involve a well respected figure, such as a scientist or politician, to add credibility (ethos).

Listen to how politicians, journalists and advertisements make use of rhetoric to persuade us. This may help you to decide the style you wish to adopt for your presentation.

Watch and Learn

The video clips on the right hand side of the screen illustrate several of the points made above and the discussion points aim to support you in evaluating these examples and your own practice.

Follow the reading list and useful websites links for further suggestions.


Brunel University (West London)

Maximise the Power of Your Brain - Tony Buzan MIND MAPPING

Prime Minister Tony Blair's Resignation Speech