Oral Presentations for Tutorials and Seminars

Many courses at UNSW require students to give oral presentations in tutorials and seminars. During your studies, you may be required to give many presentations.

What is an oral presentation?

An oral presentation is a short talk on a set topic given to a tutorial or seminar group. In an oral presentation one (or more) students give a talk to a tutorial group and present views on a topic based on their readings or research. The rest of the group then joins in a discussion of the topic.

Depending on your course, giving an oral presentation can involve:

  • reading background material
  • preparing and delivering a talk
  • leading a group discussion
  • preparing handouts and visual aids
  • preparing relevant and thought-provoking questions
  • submitting a written assignment based on the presentation topic

Presentation topics are usually scheduled early in the semester. You may be able to choose your topic or one may be allocated to you. If you are able to choose a topic, select the one that you have some questions about and that interests you the most. Your presentation may be given as an individual or as part of a group.

In some courses the oral presentation may be the basis for a written assignment. Check with your tutor for details. There may be specific requirements you may need to meet and these are usually detailed in your course outline or study guide.

Preparing a presentation

Preparing an oral presentation is much like preparing any other assignment; it needs to be planned researched and written before it is delivered.

Getting started

Examine the assignment criteria provided in your course outline carefully and make sure you know exactly what to do. Do you have to answer a set question, present an argument, explain or discuss something, be critical? If you are unsure, check with your tutor.

  • Analyse your audience. What are their needs, constraints, knowledge level?
  • Research your topic. You must demonstrate an understanding of the main points of your tutorial readings, but you will need to read further. Use your course reading list to find additional relevant information.
  • Read and consider the tutorial readings carefully. Express your own conclusions about the opinion/argument/ thesis you think the author is trying to express. Demonstrate an ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in the material presented in the texts.
  • Brainstorm your topic and write a rough outline in point form.
  • Organise your material and write a draft—think about the length of time you have to speak and the amount of information you can include.
  • Summarise your draft into points to write on overheads and/or cards.
  • Plan and prepare your visual aids.
  • Rehearse your presentation and get its length right. Ask a friend to listen and time you.


Oral presentations usually have a time limit and the amount of time you have will determine how much information you are able to cover. To keep within the allotted time, you need to plan carefully and focus on essential points when giving your talk.

  • Find out what the time limit is and ask yourself:
  • How much of the topic area can I cover?
  • How much detail can I include? What can I leave out? (Remove any padding or irrelevant information).
  • What is the most effective way to present information? Would using visuals (OHTs, slides, videos, whiteboard etc.) help me cover more ground in less time?

Write a draft ‘script’ and allow roughly 400 words for each five minutes. A draft will help you work out the structure, the main points and the supporting information you need to include.

 See next: Planning and structuring your presentation

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