how to give a good talk

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How to Give a Good Talk. Special thanks to Dr Sally A. Goldman of the Department of Computer Science at Washington University, who provided the majority of content for this presentation. Why Are We Here?. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • How to Give a Good Talk

    Special thanks to Dr Sally A. Goldman of the Department of Computer Science at Washington University, who provided the majority of content for this presentation.

  • Why Are We Here?For your work to have significant impact, it is essential that you can convey results to your communityYour reputation depends on colleagues reaction to your talkThis skill may be crucial to getting a job or advancing in industryGiving a good talk is a skill you can learnI will give you guidance and tips on giving a good talk

  • Goals of a TalkMeta-Goal:Keep audiences interest (and attention)Convey technical materialCommunicate a key ideaProvide intuitionConvince audience to read written documentation (if exists)Non-Goals:Show people how smart you areExpect audience to understand most key details of your work

  • OutlineGoals of a TalkPlanning StagesStructuring Your TalkTransparency PreparationThe DosThe DontsAt the TalkThe DosThe DontsConcluding Remarks

  • Planning StagesKnow your audience:What is their background?General, EE, CpE, or other?Somewhat specialized audienceHighly specialized audienceIf someone has spoken before you:Look at paper/abstract/titles of relevant talks that proceeded yoursPrepare to use context provided

  • Scheduling (if you can)If possible schedule your talk at 11:00Most people are awakeFew have gone back to sleepBad times to schedule talk:After lunch since the audience is more likely to be sleepyLate afternoon since people will be running out of steamBest to have room that will be comfortably crowded

  • Structuring Your TalkUse a top-down approach:

    Introduction (define problem, present a carrot, and put in context)Body (high level summary of key results)Technicalities (more depth into a key result)Conclusion (review key results and wrap up)

  • The IntroductionDefine the Problem/ObjectiveMinimize use of terminologyUse pictures/examples/props if possibleMotivate the audience (give a carrot)Why is problem important?How does it fit into larger picture?What are the applications?Discuss related workTable useful (mention authors and dates)Succinctly state contributions of your workProvide a road-map (outline)

  • The BodyAbstract the key resultsFocus on a central, exciting conceptExplain significance of your workSketch methodology of key ideasKeep it high-level emphasizing structureUse pictures/diagrams whenever possibleProvide intuition Gloss over technical details

  • The TechnicalitiesTake key result (or part of it) and go into some depthGuide audience through difficult ideasGive overviewState resultShow exampleReviewIt is this portion of your talk that typically grows when you give a 50 minute talk

  • The ConclusionProvide a coherent synopsisReview key contributions and why they are importantDiscuss open problems/future workTell your audience what you want them to do nextIndicate your talk is over. (For example, Thank you. Are there any questions?)Be ready to answer questionsIf there are points you glossed over that you expect the audience may be interested in, you may want to prepare some transparencies (just in case)

  • Transparency Preparation DosDecide what you want to say and say less!Allow an average of 1.5 2 minutes for each transparencyUse RepetitionTell them what youre going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them.Realize that 20% of your audience at any given time is thinking about something elseUse Pictures/Diagrams whenever you can

  • Transparency Prep Dos (cont)Use a large font (at least 20 pt)Make neat/orderly transparenciesUse computer-generated slides if expectedUse overlaysUse color (in a meaningful way)You need not use full sentencesNumber your transparencies in case you drop themWrite reminders, key phrases and such on paper between transparencies or on frames

  • Transparency Prep Dos (cont)Provide units on any graphs (e.g. Volts/meter)Make graph or picture labels large enough to read (20pt or more) including axis marksUse color to highlight graphs, but make lines/data readable in black and white if providing black and white handounts

  • Transparency Prep Dos (cont)Check your spellingIf you use a transparency more than once duplicate itPRACTICE!Give a practice for your colleaguesBe ready to redo all your transparenciesPractice againBe sure that all your material projects on the screenMake sure it does not take too much time(leave time for questions!)

  • Transparency Preparation DontsOverload transparenciesIntend to use too many transparenciesPut some detail on the slide that you do not want to talk aboutGet bogged down in detailsTry to give a core dump

  • Transparency Prep Donts (cont)Half cover slides (this draws attention to the COVERED part the fashion industry has exploited this for years)Show complex equationsShow code (even LISP/Scheme)Have a transparency that introduces a point that you are unsure of (unless you want to give the audience a chance to attack you)

  • Transparency Prep Donts (cont)Present last minute results (they are probably wrong)Have transparencies that you are not using mixed in with the restWrite messy, write too small, misspell wordsPut too much information in a single graph or picture

  • At the Talk DosIf you expect the audience to take notes provide copies of your transparencies (this is rarely the case in a conference or colloquium/job talk situation)Dress appropriately this shows respect for your audienceHave eccentricity (but not too extreme)Make it fun/easy for people to remember youExtreme eccentricity is bad for younger people

  • At the talk Dos (cont)Be EXCITED about your work!Remind Dont AssumeIf you assume a standard result provide the audience with a brief reminderTALK WITH SUFFICIENT VOLUMEMake Eye ContactBe With the AudienceWalk toward and away from the people as well as left and right to break down implicit barrier

  • At the Talk Dos (cont)Point to the screen not transparencyBring propsAsk real and rhetorical questions to keep audience engagedUse a pointer to highlight items on the display (but dont overuse especially with a laser pointer!)Deflect obstructionistsTell them youd like to talk to them after the talk (about the interesting point made) because the point is a detail, tangential, has a long answer, you need to think about it, End on Time!

  • At the Talk DontsTalk too softly, mumble, or speak in a monotone voice, use um, ah, Read your transparenciesFocus attention on the screen youll end up talking to the screen vs. the audienceStand so that you block the projectionMention a detail/point you dont want to talk aboutDarken the room (unless necessary to see) since it entices audience to sleepBabble on when you have nothing to sayOver-run your time

  • Concluding RemarksFollow the guidelines provided hereTake every opportunity you can to give talks (and thus get practice and feedback)Remember that the guidelines for structuring your talk must be adapted to each specific talkPreparing a good talk takes time, do not expect to throw it together last minutePractice for colleagues to get feedbackAND you will give better talks and reap all the rewards that follow