The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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Ohio State Clinical Law Professor Elizabeth Cooke '94 JD says the most effective presentations are simple and short.

Jo McCulty

How to give a great talk

Ohio State Clinical Law Professor Elizabeth Cooke advises simplicity.

Most of us will have to speak in front of a group, whether we’ll pitch an idea, propose a strategy, seal a deal. While the very notion may leave you in a cold sweat, Ohio State Clinical Law Professor Elizabeth Cooke ’94 JD, who teaches law school students the ins and outs of practicing civil law, suggests there’s a way to deliver the goods and stay cool.


To be clear and direct requires some groundwork, Cooke says. “I’ve heard brilliant orators go in front of a crowd and try to pull something off the cuff, and those just never go well,” she says.

Know your audience  

Consider “their pre-existing knowledge of your topic,” she says, and their goals for your presentation. Are they looking to be informed or entertained?

Be transparent 

"You lay it out for them at the outset so your audience understands what you’re hoping they get out of your talk," Cooke says. An outline can serve as a roadmap for how you’re going to accomplish your presentation goals.

Make just a few concrete points 

Think about how to illustrate those points with examples. “Stories are how we make sense of the world. And stories make things memorable,” she says. Respect your audience and their time. “If you try to cram too much in, you really reduce retention,” she says.

About the author

Sarah H. Magill

Sarah H. Magill '90 MA studied journalism at Ohio State. She is a high school English teacher.