Preparing an Oral Book Report

Your task is to give talk to your classmates about a novel you have read. The talk will last for about 3-5 minutes and you will allow the audience to ask questions at the end.

Essential points

  1. This is a talk, not an essay read out loud.
  2. You must read the book you are going to talk about! Otherwise, you will sound hesitant and look foolish.
  3. Have a copy of the book beside you when you make notes for your talk. You can check details about the characters, events etc and quote from the text.
  4. Have a copy of the book with you when you give your talk. You can show it to your audience and possibly refer to parts you have bookmarked.
  5. Do not write a speech. Instead, make notes which will guide you when you speak. (Many speakers find index cards useful for their notes.)
  1. The Structure of your Report
  2. The following is a basic structure that should be successful for most novels:

    1. Title, author, year of publication
    2. Genre (What type of story is it? e.g. Young Adult, Humour, Ghost, Horror, Romance, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Fantasy)
    3. The setting (Where does story take place? If it is not set in the present, say when … Is the setting important to the story?)
    4. The main characters (describe them, comment on their personality, behaviour, relationships and how they change as a result of their experiences)
    5. The plot (summarise what happens; do not bore your audience with every detail)
    6. Conclusion (sum up what you liked about the book; possibly mention others in the same series or by the same author)


  3. Body Language
  4. You are going to give a talk – not read an essay out loud. You must look at your audience (make eye contact with every single person there!); turn your head from side to side; and change your facial expressions.

  5. Voice
  6. Your voice is a tool and you can use it either skilfully or clumsily.

    1. Speak loudly enough for your audience to hear you without straining. Raise your head, take deep breaths, speak from your diaphragm. (Think of the person furthest from you and make sure they can hear you.)
    2. Be confident: tell yourself that you know the book well and your audience probably don’t, so you’re the expert!. This confidence will help you to speak clearly.
    3. Vary your voice: change the volume, stress and tone in different parts of your talk and even between words or sentences.
  7. Making Notes
    1. Notes should be notes, not whole sentences or paragraphs – and certainly not an essay!
    2. Make them big enough to glance at quickly.
    3. If you write notes on numbered index cards or strips of paper, they will be easier to read. As you finish each card, move it to the bottom of the
    4. pile.
  8. Fillers
  9. It is perfectly alright to say "er" , "erm" (or make similar noises !) when you are searching for words. Even the best speakers do this. However, if you are well prepared, you should not need to do it a lot.

  10. Mark your transitions
  11. A "transition" is the point where you move from one topic to another, or from one section of your talk to another. In a written book report, we can see the transitions because there are gaps between paragraphs - and possibly sub-headings as well. In a talk, however, we need to hear the gaps. You can mark your transitions in various ways:

    1. Pause (in other words, stop speaking for about 5 seconds …)
    2. State clearly that you have just finished one section and are about to begin another (e.g. "OK, so those are the main characters … And now I’d like to turn to the plot, in other words what happens in the story.")
    3. Change your volume and tone of voice. If you just say "OK …" or "Right …" in a raised, emphatic voice, this signals to your audience that something different is about to come. Emphasise the first word heavily, but use a strong voice and raised tone for the whole sentence.
    4. Use body language to mark the change. Most simply, you can raise you head and look round the whole audience; this should be a very definite movement, different from what came before it. However, you might even move your body – e.g. step forward or rearrange your cards very visibly.
  12. End on a clear, strong note
  13. Do not "fade away". Conclude your talk in a clear manner. For example, say what you liked about the book or why you think others might like it. Speak clearly. Thank your audience for listening and ask (in a clear, confident voice) if they have any questions.


Your objective is to demonstrate the DOs and DON’Ts of giving a talk. In your group, prepare a presentation based on the tasks below. Share the work among you but make sure that you all contribute ideas. You will not give a single talk; instead, you will deliver parts of a talk in different ways – some successful, some not.

  1. Make notes for a talk about any novel of your choice. (If you prefer, you can add humour to the task by choosing a well known folktale or children’s tale.) Follow the structure outlined in No.1 of the guidelines above.
  2. Prepare a section of your talk where the speaker’s body language is inappropriate – for example they remain very still, look at their notes (which are far too detailed) for most of the time or only look straight ahead. Try to make this humorous!
  3. Prepare a section of your talk where the speaker is hard to hear and when we do hear them, they sound boring! You can make this very humorous … Look at the notes about voice in No.3 of the guidelines above and do the opposite of what it suggests!
  4. Prepare a section of your talk which is well prepared and very appropriately presented. This is the most challenging task, so choose your best speaker!
If you do the task effectively, your audience should be able to identify the good and bad sections of your presentation.