University of Wisconsin–Madison


Professor Greg Downey (Library and Information Studies 201)

Practicing oral communication skills is an important part of a Comm-B course. In LIS 201 you will perform two in-class presentations: one prepared four-minute speech, and one extemporaneous (unrehearsed) two-minute response to another student’s speech. Each of these will be based on your readings for that week. Your TA will assign you a week and a particular reading for both your prepared speech and your extemporaneous speech. However, you will not be told when your extemporaneous speech is scheduled. If you have an unexcused absence on the day that your prepared or extemporaneous speech is due, you forfeit the points for that assignment.


Prepared speech

The prepared speech is a four-minute summary and critique of one of the articles your class is discussing from the course reader that week.

You should devote the first part of your presentation (2 minutes) to identifying the main arguments of the reading, outlining the author’s claims, reasons, and evidence. You do not have to go into great detail (since all students will have read the article) but you do have to provide an accurate summary.

The rest of your presentation (2 minutes) should deal with your reaction to the reading. You need to make your own claim and your reason for that claim, providing evidence to support it. Like a good paper, your talk needs a short introduction and a satisfying conclusion.

Do not read your presentation! You may speak from simple notes that keep you on track, but allow the words to emerge spontaneously and conversationally. A good strategy is to practice your presentation in front of a mirror, a voice recorder, or a friend.

While you are making your presentation, your TA will designate a fellow student to record you on a little digital video camera. Later, your TA will post this video on the discussion section wiki page for the reading you reviewed. You are required to view your performance and perform a self-critique: email your TA with one way that you could improve your delivery next time.


Extemporaneous speech

The extemporaneous speech is a two-minute reaction to another student’s prepared speech.

Your reply should both acknowledge what your fellow student said about the article (1 minute) and then critique what that student said, offering your own ideas (1 minute).

Remember, though, that “critique” doesn’t necessarily mean “criticize.” Explain whether you agree or disagree with the student’s assessment of the article, and why. Or you may suggest a different way of understanding or interpreting the article, contrasting it with what the first student said.

This is not an easy assignment—you only have two minutes. Try to be constructive, civil, and, above all, concise.


Evaluation criteria for speeches:

All TAs use the same oral presentation grading sheet and grade your speeches according to both content and delivery.


  • Do you accurately capture what the author (or previous speaker) was saying?
  • Is your own claim clear?
  • Is your evidence for your claim convincing?



  • Have you kept to the time specified?
  • Are you loud enough to be heard?
  • Does your inflection and emphasis help convey your meaning (as in normal conversation)?
  • Are you, like, avoiding the use of slang and, basically, all those crutch phrases like “like” and “basically”?
  • Do you seem to be enjoying yourself (even if you aren’t)!

Ignite presentation 

Besides completing a written review of your book, one of your assignments is to take an idea from this book and communicate it using a five-minute narrated slideshow.

Preparing and narrating a slideshow:

There are many ways to use slideshow programs like Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote effectively. There are even more ways to use them ineffectively. You will use a very scripted and effective format for that slideshow, called “Ignite.”

In an Ignite presentation, you have a pre-set amount of time to work through a pre-set number of slides, each of which advances automatically. So if you get five minutes for your presentation, you get 20 slides, which cross the screen at a rate of one every 15 seconds.

Usually in an Ignite presentation, people try to choose slides with interesting images or charts on them, and talk their way through explaining each one in turn. This avoids the common slideshow pitfall of simply creating slides full of words and then reading the words out loud.

Most modern slide programs have a feature allowing you to record an audio narration to a slideshow. Such programs can often be set to auto-advance the slides after a predetermined number of seconds. (Or you may use a friend’s help to click the “next slide” button at the appropriate time.) Don’t worry if at the end you’re a little under or over five minutes.

Uploading your slideshow:

After you have recorded your slideshow, upload it to your discussion section wiki and place a link to it on your personal wiki page. Then spend some time watching the shows of your classmates to decide which one you like the best!