How to give a good talk?
Some advice for oral presentations
A few more or less self-evident but gentle reminders when preparing and executing an oral presentation.
- Prepare the talk to fit the given time slot. You ruin the time keeping, you ruin the talk.
- Get to the point. Avoid long introductions and overviews before the take-home message. Bring your results and conclusions upfront, save the background and justifications for support.
- For a BLAM talk, you are the sole author of the presentation. Advisors and collaborators are acknowledged elsewhere (at the very beginning or at the end of the talk).
- Make a few extra slides for the discussion after the talk, if needed. Perhaps you can anticipate some questions and clarify them with those slides.
- Your last slide should be one with a summary or conclusions. This slide is kept up during the discussion and helps the audience to remember what the talk was about and what you have discovered. One big "Thanks-for-listening"-slide is just decorative at best.
- This last slide can also have a few references or links to web sites.
- Avoid packing your slides with too much information. Use key words instead of long sentences. Corollary: don't tell the audience everything you know and what you have discovered. Some is saved for later, some for the discussion, perhaps.
- Color-blindness is not too uncommon. Make sure you use colors in figures and graphs in a way that minimizes confusion (such as using red and green as contrasting colors).
- Force yourself to talk slowly if you are a fast talker (and a little nervousness often leads to rapid talk). Don't be afraid of a few moments of silence (and thinking).
- Force yourself to speak up, even with a microphone.
- Try to stay in roughly the same place on the floor. Some gentle movements are fine, but dancing or marching around deflects the attention of the audience.