How to give (and make) a presentation
These are my notes from a quick workshop at Stony Brook University given by Professor Michael Bender and Professor Rob Johnson in May 2012.
How to make the presentation
- If you had one slide, make your presentation.
- If you had two slides, extend your 1 slide presentation.
- 1 slide -> 2 slides -> 3 slides.
- Explain your problem (most likely to do bad on).
- Explain why your problem is important.
- Why do existing solutions not solve the problem?
- Explain your contribution (most likely to do bad on).
- Make clear what you did.
- Make clear what other people did.
- Talk about your solution.
- Put results pretty early on in the presentation.
If you have a title and you don’t know how to begin, begin by explaining your title.
Put your work in context:
- Explain how you fit in and how you differentiate yourself from the other work.
- Cite related work.
No more than 40 (or 20?) words per slide.
If it’s a 10 minute talk, you don’t have time to explain how you solved the problem, but more interesting than how you solved the problem:
- What the problem is.
- What are difficult examples.
- What were the difficulties.
- What is the intuition behind the problem/solution.
Don’t take information away.
The conclusion slide
- Philosophy, morals, summarize.
- What does this mean?
- What should people take out of this?
How to deliver a presentation
Giving a good talk has a lot more to do with following rules than being naturally gifted.
- First, slides have to be very fast.
- Memorize your first sentence(s).
- Say it confidently.
- Likely to be nervous, so it’s good to be prepared in the beginning
- Begin the talk quickly.
- A student actually put the title slide about a third into the talk.
Hardest thing, most of you will fail on:
- Conclude your slides (individually).
- Each slide must be introduced and concluded.
- Concluding slides is really relaxing, everyone will feel great when you do that.
- Conclusion of your slide should be on the slide.
- Know the conclusions for each slide.
- Basically your “topic sentence” now becomes your ending concluding sentence (opposite to normal writing).
- Pause after conclusions, let yourself and the audience breathe.
- One reason you don’t do this is because you’re concerned about time, or you can’t wait to move on to the next slide.
- If you can’t say in a single sentence: “Why is this slide here?” then it’s a bad slide.
Stand next to the screen, point with your fingers, the screen is not made of sulfuric acid.
- Practice touching the screen, it’s a beautiful thing :)
Refer to everything on the slides.
Do not apologize, ever.
Make jokes, smile.
- Follow with something self-referential.
- Maybe add some silly pictures (strawberry, hamsters). Use this with caution.
- Smile while giving talk.
- If you’re not enjoying yourself, then everyone else will feel awkward.
Should you read your slide, or should you just summarize your slide?
- Do not read your slides in a monotone.
- People can only focus on one thing at a time: don’t have a paragraph on the
slide and say something different.
- People will have to choose between you and the paragraph.
Make your talk self-contained, that’s the easiest way to present.
- If you find you’re paraphrasing from the slides, then you have bad slides.
Practice your talk out loud.
Explain your talk to someone.
- Goal is not to make a talk that makes you look smarter because it’s so difficult to understand.
- Make a talk that’s simple, elegant, and people can understand.
- How can you make people both understand what you did and understand that it
- Make it seem like what you really did was more complicated actually
- How do you say something is complicated?
- Personal stories.
- Be nervous. Okay in the beginning, but shake it off.
- Stare down at the floor.
- Keep your hand in your pocket(s). My personal preference, at least.