Practice, Practice Before You Present

May 11 2016

by Catherine Hamrick

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I was rummaging in some old folders the other day and came across an evaluation sheet that I developed while teaching professional communication to students in STEM and business-related majors. I scored presentations based on a point spread of 250 points. Years later, a few of my students still use this system as a checklist when preparing presentations.

Interestingly, in a PowerPoint-mad world, I did not permit use of the program until the final group presentations. Too often it becomes a crutch. How many candidates drag a PowerPoint into an interview (unless it’s an expected part of the process)? How many entrepreneurs drone and click through a short pitch to angel investors?

Sizzle the sale but deliver with smarts, poise, and originality.

P.S. How many political candidates stand a chance of passing this evaluation?


Allotted time: ___ Start time: ___ Completion time: ___ (15 pt.)


Enticing grabber (10 pt.)

Audience connection (5 pt.)

Credibility (5 pt.)

Clear thesis and set up for body of speech (10 pt.)

Easy-to-follow organization (logical order or ideas) (10 pt.)

Verbal supports of content/details (explanations, comparisons, statistics, expert opinions, etc.) (10 pt.)

Cited sources properly (10 pt.)

Ability to stick to points (no rambling) (10 pt.)

Transitions (10 pt.)

Conclusion and Clincher (10 pt.)

Partial reading (not looking up 80% of the time) (30 pt.)

Reading (failure)


Passion for topic (10 pt.)

No fillers (“you know,” “like,” “um,” “uh,” “I mean”) (15 pt.)

Natural speech (no laughing or apologizing) (10 pt.)

Grammar (10 pt.)

Vocal Variety (no monotone or mumbling) (10 pt.)

Pace (10 pt.)

Word choices (relevant to subject, active verbs and figures of speech—color, vivid language) (10 pt.)


Walk confidently to podium and take speaker’s stance with good posture (10 pt.)

Good eye contact (10 pt.)

No awkward movement (swaying, fidgeting, excessive gestures, etc.) (10 pt.)

Ability to overcome distractions and physical barriers (10 pt.)

Catherine Hamrick is a communications manager. She blogs at Random Storyteller, which features creative nonfiction (often with a Southern twist), poetry, musings, and writing tips.


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After a few years as a copywriter for the Southern Living Advertising Department, editor and writer Catherine Hamrick learned her craft in the magazine and book divisions of media giants Time Inc. and Meredith Corporation. She taught writing, literature, public speaking, and business communication at the university level. As a freelancer, Catherine has tackled "almost every topic but porn and physics" and has managed editorial projects or co-authored branded books for imprints such as Southern Living, Oxmoor House, Meredith Books, Better Homes and Gardens, Traditional Home, Country Home, Midwest Living, The Home Depot, Ortho, and Lark Publishing. Certified in social media marketing, she coaches students and professionals in writing resumes, cover letters, and online profiles. She is also a ghostwriter—that is, a professional keeper of secrets. Connect @ChamrickWriter or drop by her blogs: Random Storyteller ( and Catherine Hamrick: Writer, Editor, Social Media Human (

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