A few tips to building an argument
Work out your argument
Write it down in one sentence. With oral presentations you must
make your argument as concise as possible. Ideally it should be
articulated in only one or two clauses. Oral arguments favour
short and bold statements. Whereas there is plenty of opportunity
in written work for the use of numerous qualifiers and indications
of provisionality, in verbal presentations such manoeuvrings can
easily become confusing and tedious to audiences. A certain level
of provocation, even to the point of slightly overstating one’s
case, is often exactly what is required to make people sit up and
start listening to you.
Work out your structure
For a talk of about 15 minutes you will probably need three or perhaps four main sections. Shorter time periods may be divided into two. Anything over 20 minutes allows you to go up to five sections. However, this is the limit: any more than this and your talk will become list-like and confusing.
Reduce your material to notes
This is as necessary for PowerPoint users as it is for everyone
else. From each of your sections take the key points and type
them up. Key sentences that sum up whole sections or key ideas
should be written down in full (these will need to be delivered with
emphasis, so find a way of highlighting them). Do not be afraid of
repeating key points. It is especially useful to repeat basic contentions made at the beginning sometime in the middle of your talk and then again at the end.
The start of your talk needs to include the same elements that
commence any good essay. A statement of your central argument
and a statement of the structure of your talk are both essential.
Similarly, at the end you will need to return to these elements and
make a concluding claim (for example, ‘What I have shown in this
talk …’, ‘This confirms my original argument …’).
- What is Freshers Week?
- Most universities hold a Freshers’ Week or a similar event. Its chief purpose is to help new students settle in quickly. As well as a series of informative talks, there is usually an energetic social programme and senior students will be around to help you to find your feet. Your university will probably send you an information pack ahead of your arrival.