Online Resources
for Teaching Oral Presentation Skills
in First-Year Writing Courses

Jennifer Barton
Paul Heilker
Dave Rutkowski

Virginia Tech English Department

In preparing this bibliography, we found that most of the online resources on oral presentation skills are tightly focused on workplace and business presentations, offering rather specific advice on "how to recognize and win over the decision maker in the room," for instance. Nonetheless, the list of resources below features sites we think would be helpful in addressing the needs of first-year writing instructors and their students.

The Virtual Presentation Assistant

The Virtual Presentation Assistant is a comprehensive step-by-step tutorial for the public speaker. Maintained by the Communication Studies Department at the University of Kansas, the site even offers tips and links for the discovery of oral presentation topics. With an easily navigable menu bar, the creators highlight important presentation elements such as, audience, content, visual aids, and delivery.

University of Michigan – How to Give a Talk

Written by Paul Edwards of the University of Michigan, this informal website covers the basics of oral presentations and denounces what he calls "the awful academic talk." The information provided by Edwards may create an excellent short reading assignment for students or provide the instructor with a quick list of presentation topics to cover in class.

Designing Presentation Visuals

This site is an excellent source for instructors who wish to learn only about the visual side of oral presentations. The writers offer a set of guidelines for the production of effective visual aids. The guidelines focus on the audience’s need for variety, stimulus, and clarity.

How to Conquer the Fear of Public Speaking

Written by Morton C. Orman, M.D., this site is an excellent resource for students approaching an oral presentation. The article ends with a ten-point recap of the most effective ways to quell public speaking fears, and the body of the page remains informal, encouraging, and draws from the personal experiences of the author.

Making Effective Presentations

This site, from Northeastern University, outlines the four basics elements of an oral presentation as strategy, structure, style, and questions/challenges. With bold-faced subheadings, the reader can find particular information on presentations quickly or simply read through in a sequential order to understand all the aspects of public speaking. The site also contains a section on the use of questions by both audience and presenter during a public talk.

University of Kansas Medical Center Online Tutorials

If you can manage the awkward navigation, these sites offer a wealth of information.

Preparing Effective Oral Presentations

Jeff Radel provides tips and advice on the entire process

of giving a presentation – from the initial planning stages through the question and answer session at the end of the actual presentation. This site will help students see the importance of presentations outside the classroom. It will also help them recognize that even professionals must practice in order to produce good presentations.

Designing Effective Visuals

This site provides exceptionally useful guidelines and tips about how to ensure that visuals enhance, rather than detract from, a presentation.

Bio Online Career Center

A very plain, dense, single-page site, including lots of general advice, but not many specific suggestions. It is perhaps most useful in showing students the importance of oral presentations after college, particularly since this site is directed towards professionals who never thought a technical job would require presentation skills.

Computer Science Department University of Wisconsin-Madison

Although this site is directed towards academic professionals, it is still a very good, brief, general outline of the dos and don'ts of presentations.

Overcoming Speaking Anxiety in Meetings and Presentations

This site provides solid advice on how to begin combating speaking anxiety and is applicable for speakers of all levels of experience under any circumstances.

How to Deal with a Hostile Audience

This site primarily addresses how to manage a question-and-answer session, rather than how to deal with a hostile audience. Even so, it provides some quick, helpful tips on how to make such a session successful.

Speech Preparation As A Process

Instead of just re-emphasizing the importance of preparation before giving a speech, this site provides a specific list of questions that can help ensure that the preparation process is truly effective.

How to Use Transitions Effectively

A good list of ways to make transitions between ideas, some of which are applicable to written as well as oral communication.

7 Aspects Of a Dynamic Presentation

This site gives a fairly detailed discussion of the various aspects of a presentation, from what you, yourself, can do as speaker, to how to contend with elements that are beyond your control, such as background noise.