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Even if you’re a natural public speaker, rehearsing is a good idea. Apart from increasing your confidence, it allows you to sort out important issues like timing. I’m going to talk about how to rehearse for an extemporaneous presentation, since it’s generally the best delivery mode to use.

You’ll need to prepare an outline of each of the points you want to cover during your presentation. What you’re aiming for is to have enough information so that during the presentation you can glance at some note cards and know what the next point you’re going to cover is and any important things you need to do. For instance, for a presentation on dinosaurs, a section of my delivery notes might be:

  • Dinosaur size - how big, how small?

  • Small dinosaur example - Compsognathus.

  • Large dinosaur example - Argentinosaurus. Emphasise complete skeleton not found.

So this could translate into the following words during my actual presentation:

"Dinosaurs varied hugely in size. When we think of dinosaurs, we tend to think of massive creatures, but there were also many very small dinosaurs, much smaller than we ourselves are. For example, Compsognathus was a tiny, carnivorous dinosaur about the size of a chicken! It would have eaten small animals and insects, but we could probably have kicked it. On the other end of the scale, there were the huge dinosaurs, like Argentinosaurus, estimated to have weighed around 80 tonnes or more and to have reached lengths of 35 metres or more. However, it’s important to keep in mind that only a small percentage of the total skeletons of many of the largest dinosaurs has been found, so sizes can only be estimated based on scientific reasoning."

The usual way of storing your notes for your presentation is to put them on small cards that you can keep in your hand or on a podium. By having short notes at hand, you’re able to glance at them if you momentarily lose track of what you’re speaking about next. Because they’re in note form, however, you won’t be able to read from them, so it’s important that you rehearse to get confident enough that you can convert the notes into complete sentences.

You will have to completely write out some things on your notes. Unless you can spend the time memorising them, quotes you use in your oral need to be written out completely. Any complicated statistics or numerical information should be written out as well.