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Narrowing down your topic

Most oral presentations in high school are quite short, no longer than 10 or 15 minutes (short attention spans!) This means that you need to have a fairly narrow, specific topic for your presentation; otherwise, you’ll just spend those valuable minutes waffling on in general. So you’ve got to decide exactly what you want to achieve with your presentation.

Directly, what you want to achieve is this:


Indirectly, in an informative presentation, you want to successfully teach the audience about your topic in an interesting manner. To do this, start by narrowing down the topic. Instead of trying to teach the audience about dinosaurs, aim for trying to teach the audience about the life cycle of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. In a persuasive presentation, you want to persuade your audience to accept a certain viewpoint or attitude. Often with a persuasive presentation your ultimate aim is to get the audience to do or not do certain things as a result of your persuasion. For instance you might try to persuade them to eat less junk food. So rather than having a general aim of trying to convince people not to eat junk food, go for a more specific aim, like trying to convince people to eat junk food once less than normal this week. For a persuasive oral, it’s a good idea to come up with a thesis statement - a sentence that expands your general aim and details the main points you’ll be hammering home.

When you’re narrowing down your topic, don’t over specialise. Your aim is to get it narrow enough so that you can get into some detailed specifics about the topic, but not so narrow that you run out of things to say in the time allocated.