14 – Oral Communication

Oral Communication and Presentations

Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt; Matt McKinney; and Kimberly Clough

While this textbook primarily discusses technical communication skills in terms of written texts, genres, and discourses, it is also important to master these skills in oral communication. Professionals in all fields are often called upon to present information, such as giving reports to management or leadership in an organization, composing videos, teaching or training other professionals or more general audiences, or even giving presentations at professional events and conferences.

Many of the same qualities that characterize effective written technical communication, such as clarity, concision, and consideration for one’s audience, are also present in effective oral communication. Some of these qualities become even more important or manifest in different forms, such as clear transitions and repetition. This chapter will explore these concepts further in an in-depth analysis of oral communication contexts.

Public Speaking Anxiety

For many of us, speaking in front of a group is terrifying. In a written document, we have the opportunity to revise and edit until we are ready for readers. In a speech or presentation, however, we only have one chance to impress, and we do not have control over the situation. We may also feel embarrassed about things we cannot help, such as a stutter, an accent, or involuntary movements. We may have to switch from how we speak with our families and friends. We may be BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) facing a room of people who are not of our race or heritage. All of these factors and more lead to anxiety over public speaking.

Note

Texas A&M University Resources

There are several useful strategies for overcoming nervousness as a speaker. Texas A&M’s University Writing Center offers an excellent handout with practical tips to address common concerns of preparation, control, and conveying authority.[1] If you need or would like further support for anxiety, we recommend contacting Texas A&M’s Counseling & Psychological Services[2] and Disability Resources.[3]

While there are many helpful practices for those dealing with the nervousness that accompanies public speaking, some of us may have deeper anxieties. In these cases, it may be worthwhile to seek out counseling and other support resources. These services, along with family, friends, and instructors, can help us identify and implement coping strategies, supports, and accommodations for living with anxiety, thus putting us on an even playing field with our peers.

McKinney, Matt, Kalani Pattison, Sarah LeMire, Kathy Anders, and Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt, eds. Howdy or Hello?: Technical and Professional Communication. 2nd ed. College Station: Texas A&M University, 2022. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

  1. “Overcoming Stage Fright,” Texas A&M University Writing Center: Writing and Speaking Guides, accessed August 16, 2020, https://writingcenter.tamu.edu/Students/Writing-Speaking-Guides/Alphabetical-List-of-Guides/Presentations/Overcoming-Stage-Fright.
  2. Texas A&M University: Counseling & Psychological Services, Division of Student Affairs, https://caps.tamu.edu/.
  3. Texas A&M University: Disability Resources, Division of Student Affairs, https://disability.tamu.edu/.

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Oral Communication and Presentations by Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt; Matt McKinney; and Kimberly Clough is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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