How to give a talk: do's and don'ts
- Practice, practice, practice. Be aware that your real talk will take about 10-20% longer than your practice talk.
- Dress appropriately.
- Introduce your topic in its proper context at the very beginning of the talk. (What is the question? Why is it important? Who cares about it? Who studied it before you did? What is your contribution? What will you tell us?)
- Speak loudly, slowly, and clearly.
- Be professional: don't use profanities, colloquialisms, and space fillers (such as "you know", "so", "um", "uh", "like").
- Know your audience: avoid special terminology and technical formulas; define all key terms before you use them.
- Don't go overtime -- it's impolite to the audience and to the speakers after you.
- Don't ask for questions at the end of the talk -- let the moderator do it.
Use visual aids with care -- this is the most efficient way to improve your presentation. Remember that the visual aids are exactly that -- they are supposed to help your talk, not to be your talk.
- Don't read the text on the slides -- explain it.
- Prepare separate notes for each slide. Be careful not to block the view -- keep your shoulder away from the projector.
- Have a pointing device handy.
- Maintain eye contact with your audience -- don't look at the screen or at your notes too much.
Keep in mind that using PowerPoint will not make a bad talk look good!
If you use PowerPoint, the following apply:
- Place the title, author(s), and affiliation (or project status) on the first slide.
- Use a few well-written slides. Count about 2 min per slide (e.g. a 15-minute talk should have no more than 6-8 slides).
- Each slide should clarify only one topic and have a short (one-line) title.
- Print a few well-spaced lines (12 or less) per slide.
- Use standard font of large size: at least 28 pt or 1/2" in height. (Sans serif fonts, such as Arial, look better than serif fonts, such as Times Roman, in PowerPoint.)
- Make sure your graphs, charts, pictures, photos are large enough and clearly visible.
- Use a few basic colors (black, blue, red). Don't mix red with green -- this particular color combination can be difficult to read.
Don't depend solely on the computer.
- Don't go wild with the colors; use one of the professional-looking built-in color schemes. Make sure your slides have enough intensity contrast between the foreground and background colors.
- Don't use cute but distracting and annoying transitions, animations, sounds, etc.
- Press the space bar to go to the next slide and the Backspace key to go to the previous slide (it's easier than fumbling with the mouse in the dark).
- Run your PowerPoint presentation in any HC classroom to make sure that your version of PowerPoint is compatible with the version used in HC classrooms and that your color schemes are effective using the HC version of PowerPoint.