ORAL REPORTS: 6 Common Errors to Avoid

1. Lack of Organization

2. Not Analyzing the Audience

3. Failure to Control Time

4. Poor Oral Delivery

5. Too Much or Too Little Information

6.Poorly Planned or Under-Practiced Closing


Oh, no!  I made so many mistakes!!!!
Be Aware to Avoid . . . these problems

An oral report can be a very effective technique for communicating important information.  However, that information must be "packaged" into manageable amounts and communicated concisely and professionally from start to finish.

Too often, however, communication errors by presenters, speakers and meeting leaders, for example, inhibit the proper flow of this vital information.  These errors listed below can be easily corrected with preparation and practice.  First, though, let's look at these 6 Common Errors.


The first requirement of a professional communicator is to know the objective or goal for communicating.  You  must answer the question "why am I giving this presentation?"

Without this defined goal, your points will NOT be organized properly and surely your audience will not get your message quickly and clearly. 

Always follow these steps: a) gather the information; b) organize it according to a set pattern of logic (by topics, time, procedures, for example), c) choose the proper style of speaking according to your audience (formal/technical/informal); and 4) be clear (by being concise, to the point, relevant, appropriate and useful).


After knowing your objective, and organizing the flow of information, you must think about your audience.  Ask yourself:

What do I know about my audience?

What do they know about my topic?

Will they accept or reject my recommendations and/or conclusions?

In other words, analyze the "filters" of your audience.

You can analyze your audience by thinking about their average age, level of experience, knowledge of the business or project, nationalities and cultures, titles and ranks in the organization and their likes/dislikes.

Your audience's level of knowledge about your topic will dictate wheat you include or exclude from your oral report.  Make sure to define highly technical terms or jargon if their level is low, for example.  At the same time, do not bore them with explanations that they already know. 

If you have a hostile or friendly audience, then use the appropriate logical method of information organization.


Time is extremely important, for you and your audience.  If you are given a specific time period, then stick to it.

Here is a tip to avoid embarrassment: make your notes and prepare yourself for a presentation 1) on the time; 2) shorter than the time (by 1/2, for example); and 3) longer than the time (double, for example). Why?

ANSWER: Sometimes, your supervisor or other person may tell you "listen, we ran overtime on our discussion, so could you make your report a little shorter?" Or, you may be asked "someone cancelled, so could you make your report a little longer?"  A full explanation is given in the "5 Ps of Presentations."





If you have not given sufficient attention to the preceding points, then you will find that your self-confidence is low -- that will make your voice not clear and weak, and the speed too fast. These are the results of not being well-prepared and previewing enough.

For example, if you have not prepared well enough, you will notice that you are using too many filler words (those distracting um, ahh, ya know, or ya'nee, shismo) between ideas and points.  Equally distracting is OK after every sentence.

If you notice your audience losing interest, you may try to compensate by speaking more quickly.  This choice will only make things worse, especially for those of you speaking English as a second language.

You may end up running words together, placing emphasis on the wrong syllable or forgetting your points.

So, as you can see, there is a direct relationship between how much you practice and preview (see the 5 Ps of Presentations), and your level of success.


Since the time allowed for oral reports is usually short, each minute is precious. As a result, it is important to organize everything you will say and do. 

For example, when you show a slide, do not read every word, all the words, one by one.  This is TOO MUCH information.  Your audience can read the words much faster than you can say them.  Your job, then, as the presenter is to

  • Focus on one point (2 or 3 briefly) 

  • Summarize information                                 

  • Highlight a trend or development

  • Expand on the information shown

  • Show the advantages or disadvantages

Let the visual aid do just that -- AID you, help and support what you are saying.

On the other hand, remember to allow the audience enough time to see and understand the visual. If you do not, then this is TOO LITTLE information.  Avoid the "machine-gun" method of showing the visuals, one after another without explaining clearly or enough.


Just as the opening of your presentation must be strong, so too should your closing, so that your listeners will be left with a positive impression about you and your information, and you can leave them with the final statement about your topic that you want them to remember.

The most effective way is to use a Professional Closing which is made up of the following formula:

KEY WORD + FORMULA ENDING = Professional Closing.

For a full discussion of how, what when, and why of the Professional Closing, see step #5 of the "5 Ps of Presentations."


As you have seen, these six errors are frequently made, even by the best businessmen.  Overall, though, these errors can easily be corrected by knowing your purpose, analyzing your audience and organizing your thoughts BEFORE you stand in front of people and open your mouth to speak.