Making a Good Oral Presentation

A few words of practical advice about making a good oral presentation:

  • Show your passion. Passion is contagious. The purpose of your talk is to get people interested to read your paper. Show that you are excited about the work you did and about the research topic in general.
  • Have a clear take-home message. What are the 2-3 things people should remember from your talk? Make this clear at the beginning; repeat it on the final slide, which should stay there when you move on to the question answering part. Do not end with an empty slide that just says “Thank you”.
  • Less is more. Have less text, more examples. Do not read from your slides. Avoid having full sentences; rather have key phrases that remind you what to say. A clear example is worth a thousand words. A simple graph is worth more than a large table of numbers: a table is good for a paper, but a graph is better for a talk. No need to present every single technical detail from the paper; people can read it there. It might be a good idea though to have some backup slides with such details in case somebody asks.
  • Do not rush. Make sure you explain every single detail in a slide: if something is not to be explained, it is also not to be put on the slide in the first place. Do not make your slides too crowded. Also, do not have too many slides; for many people, one slide per minute or less is a good rule of thumb. Note that spending less than 30 seconds per slide feels like you are rushing.
  • Have enough slides. Do not finish your presentation too early. It might be a good idea to have extra slides to show in case there are not enough questions asked.
  • Do not turn your back. Be careful if you point to the big screen, to keep looking at the audience, especially when you speak. It might be better to look at your computer screen, and you can point with your mouse while facing the audience. Monitor their reaction and be prepared to speed up or to slow down if needed.
  • Number your slides. This will make it easier for people to ask you questions about specific slides.
  • Stay focused. In the question-answering session, give short focused answers, possibly going back to a suitable slide. Offer to take it offline if you feel it would take too long to go in sufficient detail. Before answering, repeat the question in case the person asking did not have the microphone.
  • Practice your talk with friends and colleagues. Learn the flow of your talk, e.g., know exactly what you want to say about each slide, and which slide comes next. Make sure you can do it in time, and that you can answer various questions about your talk. Practice makes perfect.

All the best!

Preslav Nakov



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