Individual presentations

Poet Simon Armitage looks at the key elements of making a great speech

Presenting is about communicating information and choosing a style suited to meet the needs of a specific audience. To get started, answer the following questions:

  • What is your presentation going to be about?
  • Who are you presenting to?
  • Why have you chosen this topic?
  • What is important about this topic?
  • Why should your audience listen?
Remember, you will also have to respond to your audience, answering any questions people may have about your topic – so be well prepared.

Preparing a presentation

When preparing a speech it can be useful to choose a topic that already interests you. Then find an angle or argument to focus on. For example, here are two presentation titles, both about cats:

  • my favourite cats
  • cats are better than dogs

The first title is personal and might be interesting to people who know the speaker, but it is unlikely to be of much interest to others. The second title, however, is something that other people can have an opinion on and therefore engage with. It also gives the presenter some structure. Instead of simply listing all their favourite cats, they can now come up with a series of examples (maybe using their favourite cats!) that convincingly show why cats are the best.

Once you have your own title and angle, come up with your main points and list these in a logical order.


Cats are better than dogs because:

  • they are independent
  • they are clever
  • they don’t need to be taken for walks
  • they make their own minds up about who they like
  • they are quiet

Now consider other viewpoints. This is useful because it means you can show that you have thought about your opponent’s point of view and seem to be more fair-minded. It also gives you the chance to explain your reasons for disagreeing with these other views before you are challenged later. Try to find all of the main likely arguments for the other side.

Cats are not better than dogs because:

  • they are fussy
  • they won’t bring back a stick when you throw it
  • they are more likely to run away

Now you can add detail to your speech and find ways to make it interesting. Create a sequence or structure for your speech in which each point supports your overall argument. You could include some of the following to make your speech convincing:

  • anecdotes, eg "Let me tell you about my last holiday when my cat…"
  • facts, eg "Cats are known to be very independent."
  • statistics (can be percentages), eg "Nine out of ten cat owners said their pets brought them joy."
  • quotations from authority figures, eg "Doctor Jenny Western of Oxford University is quoted as saying, 'We find cat owners experience less stress than other people.' ”

Finally - practise until you believe that you can deliver your speech with confidence.