Hints on Presentations

            Ric Holt, 9 Sept 2011


1)      Ahead of time

a)      Make sure the equipment is working

b)      The audience and their attention will drift if you fiddle with the equipment

c)       Before your talk, try standing where you will be giving the talk to help visualize how the talk will proceed

d)      Practice giving your talk, ideally to a friend who will give you ideas about how to improve your presentation

2)      General considerations

a)      Beware that people in the audience often let their attention drift

b)      Present in a way that a person can generally follow you even if they miss some parts of your talk

3)      Slide 1 & 2 & maybe 3

a)      Have a clear, ideally short title that tells the audience what the talk is about

b)      Give  your name and if appropriate, your association

c)       If reasonable, give a logo or picture that catches the audience’s attention and helps them concentrate on the topic

d)      Tell your entire story clearly in a few sentences

e)      Give outline of entire talk, but beware that this should not be boring

4)      Slides generally

a)      Beware of the boredom of “three bullet” slides, i.e., Point 1... Point 2… Point 3…

b)      Do not show too many slides

c)       Do not just read your slides, but rather use them to help the audience follow your ideas

5)      Final slides

a)      Summarize key “take away” ideas and why they are interesting

b)      Ask for questions

6)      Structure

a)      It is sometime helpful to divide you talk into distinct parts, maybe numbered, maybe titled

b)      These distinct parts may help the audience follow your “story line”

c)       Structure your talk so you can skip the last part (say, the last 1/4) in case you take too much time in the first parts

7)      Graphics and diagrams

a)      Ideally, use a few diagrams/graphics which summarize key ideas

b)      Use dynamic graphics only if they actually help the user understand

c)       Beware of some graphics just detract from your message

8)      Comportment

a)      Stand straight, look sharp, dress reasonably

b)      Don’t let your appearance detract from your message

c)       Look at the audience

d)      Talk to the back row, i.e., project your voice

e)      If you have a soft, quiet voice, figure out how to project and to keep the audience’s attention

f)       Do not speak quickly; speak distinctly – especially if English is not your first language

g)      If reasonable, point clearly to items on slide that you are addressing

h)      Do not “punch” (hit) the slide screen (a wobbling screen is distracting)

i)        Humour: If you can comfortably do it, use some humour

9)      Overall

a)      Beware that you need to keep the audience’s attention --- do not talk in a monotone

b)      Most  people will only remember a few (say 3) points you are making.  Be sure these points are made clearly

c)       Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them (but don’t sound repetitious)

d)      If appropriate, relate your ideas to other things the audience knows about

e)      Do not go into too much detail, but concentrate more on the big picture

f)       Audiences often have trouble following math, but often follow graphs quickly      

10)   Details about slides

a)      Each slide should be numbered

b)      In charts, label the axes

c)       In graphs, make clear what the edges mean

d)      In graphs, if the box shapes are significant, be clear what they mean

e)      Ideally, the audience should generally understand a graph even if they haven’t heard what you have said