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Good presentations

How to give a good presentation

[Diese Tipps gibt es auch auf Deutsch.]

In the winter season of 2003/04 I took part in a seminar at my university the RWTH Aachen. During the seminar I witnessed good as well as less good presentations. "Scientifically" as presentations were okay, but how it was given ...
That's sad, as it is not that hard to give a decent presentation, in which the audience may learn something instead of falling assleep.

For this to work I presume the following:
  • You've got a beamer at your disposal

  • You want your audience to learn something

If the latter one doesn't matter to you, you can stop reading right know. As far as I know, to pass it's sufficient to give a scientifically correct presentation.

The presentation:
  • Adapt your talk to the preknowledge of your audience.
  • Introduce yourself briefly at the beginning and state when you'll answer question (as they asrise or at the end).
  • Look at your audience! Not at your slides on the wall. If you need to see the slides, look at your notebook, that should stand between you and the audience (thus you don't have to turn).
    If you feel uncomfortable, looking into people's eyes look at their eyebrowes. That works just as well.
    "Audience" is not only the professor!
  • It's best if you can give the talk freely. But don't study every single word by heart, for that gives a "wooden" impression.
    Your slides should be designed in such a way, that they are all the notes you need to remind you of the things you want to say. If you desperately need notes, take index cards and only write one item per card. If you use "normally" sized paper you can be sure not to find the very point you're looking for, when you need it the most.
  • Pronounce loudly, slowly and clearly! When nervous we tend to speak too fast. Take your time. If you can even manage to vary the flow of words, stress certain things, fewer people will doze off.
  • Avoid "fillers" like "Erm", etc.
    Leaving a small break between passages, gives a far better impression.

The Slides:
  • Font size 12 is the very least! 14 is better. That also applies to source code (displayed way to small on a regular basis.
  • Even a short presentation should have a table of content in the beginning. Then everybody will know how the wind blows and some questions don't arise at all.
  • Enumerate your slides so that the others can reference a certain slide later on.
  • Especially using a beamer take care that the contrast between text and background is big enough.
  • Use animation only sparsely (if at all). It's just not pleasant anymore when the 15th heading takes 10 seconds to wobble onto the scene.
And now: Practise! Practise! Practise!
The more often and the more audience, the better. That will give you self-assurance.
If you've got the opportunity, practise with the equipment you'll also use at the actual talk.

Am I missing something important? You'd like to differ in something? ->

Good luck with your presentation!

Details: If you speak in front of a larger audience, the following hints might be of use:
  • Be there early and try all equipment. Beamer, markers, everything, ... Keep Murphy's Law in mind.
  • Enlarge your self-introduction: Why should the audience listen to you? Why are you qualified to talk about the matter at hand?
  • Stand upright. Don't hide your hands in your pockets. If you don't know what to do with your hands, hold a biro. (But don't play with it frantically.
  • If you look at the foreheads in row 11, all the rows from 10 to 20 will feel looked at (thus keeping the contact).
  • Apart from varying your voice, you can also engage the audience with gestures.

Letzte Aktualisierung: 31-Jan-2007 15:43

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