Nate Cohn


International Politics Class Presentation


            In fulfilling the requirements of Pol-201 “Emerging Issues in International Security” I was required to present a term paper to a conference panel. My term paper was on “China Threat Theory,” a term coined by Chinese academics to describe the idea that China was a threat to the United States and other western powers. The speech lasted for 23 minutes and described the history and implications of China threat theory. Following the speech, I took questions from selected panelists and the class. This speech was well organized and fairly well delivered but it suffered from numerous problems that were the result of ineffective preparation.

            The most effective part of my presentation was that it was delivered at a sufficient volume and with confidence. Other presentations suffered from a tendency to speak at conversational volume, and some were even delivered meekly, lacking confidence in either themselves or their content. My volume and confidence created the perception that I had full command over the topic I was speaking about. This gave my presentation credibility and meant that listeners were more likely to accept my analysis as accurate. This perception was strengthened by my content, which was in depth and well supported by quotes from expert. The best part of my presentation was the question and answer period. The panelists asked questions that, I believe, were clearly intended to put me off balance. I was effectively apply my speech

            While my speech was sufficiently credible, it wasn’t delivered as effectively as it could have and should have been delivered. The primary reason for the difficulties in my speech, which will be described in greater depth later, was inadequate preparation. The beginning of preparing for the speech was to convert the essay into a power point presentation. Immediately there were several apparent difficulties. The primary difficulty was that the layout of the room meant that in order to give a power point presentation, the speaker would have to stand near a computer across the room from the screen where the presentation was being projected. This meant that in order to speak from an appropriate location in the room, I would have to move from between a more central location and the computer throughout the speech. This meant that I decided to decrease the total number of slides necessary in order to reduce the amount of movement necessary. The result was that a low percentage of the words in my presentation would actually appear on each power point slide. I also decided not to use the typical PowerPoint format where bullets appear sequentially, and instead made all of the text on a slide appear simultaneously. After completing the PowerPoint presentation, I spent approximately one hour refining and practicing my speech. This practice mainly occurred in front of a computer, and I went through the speech in my head, changing the speech as necessary, and getting an idea for how long it would take for me to deliver the speech. The second time I went through the speech, it took 17 minutes, which was slightly on the low side, and I decided to add some content to the speech.

            This preparation resulted in a worse presentation in several respects. The most significant issue was time allocation. During my speech, I had a tendency to extrapolate details that I hadn’t planned on discussing in order to both feel like I was spending an adequate amount of time on each point and to clarify points or facts that needed more explanation. For instance, I explained the dispute over the South China Sea when it became apparent that people didn’t know about the different competing claims for control over the South China Sea. Compounding these problems was an overwhelming mental lapse – I had completely forgotten that I had a third section to my presentation. This caused me to rush through my third point, and my conclusion in order to finish in a reasonable amount of time. It was apparent that this was undermining my presentation. During my conclusion, I spent thirty seconds on a slide that certainly required much more explanation, and my professor was either confused or wanted me to spend more time explaining my point. Delivering at this rate undermined my ability to communicate my arguments effectively and also made my conclusion less persuasive. This was especially significant given that it was at the end of my speech. Ending on this note could have significantly hurt my grade.

            While I think that my answers in the question and answer section helped to mitigate the damage to my grade, in the future, ending a presentation in this way will not be acceptable. There are a few things that needed to change in my preparation to solve these issues. First, I needed to give my speech out loud rather then in my head, when preparing. Giving a speech in my head isn’t an accurate representation of how long it will take to give the speech aloud. Additionally, practicing the speech out loud probably would have led me to explain things in the depth that I would have in the actual presentation.