Ever notice how many actors, actresses, and politicians have attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD)? It’s no coincidence that giving speeches and acting go hand in hand with ADHD strengths — creativity, energy, enthusiasm, and quick thinking. We’re geared for verbal expression, and those qualities can let us shine in the classroom when it comes to giving an oral report.
Oral report prep is a two-stage process. First, do your research and prepare your material with an eye to engaging, informing, and entertaining. Second, remember that oral reports are given for an audience. Practice (and feedback and more practice) makes perfect.
Research and Write
Only half of an oral report is book work. The other half is presenting what you’ve learned in an engaging way. There’s little time to get your points across, so short and sweet is the key.
Choose an interesting topic. Having ADHD, we tend to wear our emotions on our sleeves. Use this to your advantage by picking a topic that interests you. Your personal excitement will definitely carry through to the audience.
Assigned a dry subject? Look at it creatively. Is there a different way to approach it, or to spin the idea? Perhaps talking about the history of the Midwest sounds dull to you, but maybe you can act it out. Can you use maps, models, or other props? Can you wear a costume? If you want to do something unusual, check with your teacher in advance.
Have fun with the research, but keep it short. Oral reports must get to the point and cover the topic quickly, so don’t research your subject into the ground. Choose only three key points to discuss. You can still use your creative mind here. Back up each point with the necessary facts and figures, and also with (brief) stories or interesting trivia you uncovered in your research.
Organize your talk. Before you write, make an outline or mind-map of what you want to say and how you want to say it. This is a great time to get assistance—from a teacher, tutor, parent, or your school or local librarian. If your structure is too complex, chances are, you’ll lose the audience, no matter how interesting the topic.
Rewrite. Think “short and sweet,” and plan on rewriting your report at least twice. ADDers think everything’s important and want to throw out thousands of ideas to our audience (especially with topics we are passionate about). Instead, focus on a few key points. In oral reports, quality counts over quantity. On your first rewrite, lose about half of what you have written. On the second, clean up the organization, add descriptive keywords, emphasize your main points, and cut a third more from the report.
Cue yourself. Don’t try to read a report you transcribed word for word, but write an outline of it on cue cards. The outline will keep you from going off on tangents, and ensure that you don’t leave out something important. Write in large print, and make the cards colorful. Try highlighting each of your three main points in yellow, and underlining key terms in red.
Once you’ve written your talk, it’s time to practice, practice, and practice some more. If you’re the quiet type, you’ll have less fear, and more confidence, the more you rehearse. Impulsive, chatty types will benefit from practicing reining themselves in.
Record yourself. Give your presentation on a Webcam, your digital camera (on video mode), a video camera, or a cassette recorder (standing in front of a mirror).
Watch your video all the way through, no matter how painful. Ask yourself whether your talk is fun, or whether it’d bore the heck out of you. The ADD mind may be an inaccurate judge of specifics, but it’s fantastic at letting you know if something’s interesting. Pay close attention to the beginning and ending (people tend to remember the first and last things someone says). Do you begin enthusiastically, or with your head down? Try starting off (and ending) with a question, a joke, or a quotation for the audience to think about.
When you feel ready, rehearse before a live audience of parents or classmates.
Keep constant eye contact. Line up some stuffed animals on your bed. Practice shifting your eyes from one to the next as you speak. If you lose your place, when you raise your head from the script, consider using even larger cue cards, or practice keeping your finger on the card where you left off reading, like a pointer.
Practice your timing. ADDers often think and speak a mile a minute, but to present a great oral report, we must slow down. Force yourself to speak slowly—better to go slow and cut out half of your talk, if necessary (you’ll find out when you watch your video), than to rush through and burn your audience. Even a shy ADDer can go from silent to lightning speed in the nervous desire to get off the stage. Practice is essential.
Borrow your mom’s egg timer, a digital timer, or, better yet, use a visual timer, such as the Time Timer (timetimer.com). A shrinking red disc lets you see time counting down, and there are silent versions, so you won’t have a buzzer going off in class when time’s up. You’ll be shocked at how fast five minutes can pass. Pace yourself so that, when the timer shows one minute to go, you can start wrapping things up.
Visualize success. The night before your talk, picture yourself in the classroom, heading to the podium, setting up your timer and any props, looking the audience in the eye, asking a question or telling a joke as an icebreaker, and then diving into your best oral report yet. If you’re well prepared, you’ll do just that.
This article comes from the Spring 2008 issue of ADDitude.
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