How to give a talk

How to Give a Presentation

A presentation is a story. You need to draw in your audience, tell them why to care (motivation) tell them how your work fits, and leave them on a good note.

The Motivation

  • Why is this important?
  • What do you hope to achieve?
  • Do not give an outline
  • Tell a story that addresses why, what, how, and when
  • The motivation is the why

(along those lines, what is the purpose of your talk. Meeting, job, proposal, $)

Text Stinks

Always go with an image over text. People can read or they can listen. They can’t do both

The What

You’ve told them why to care. So, what are you actually doing that matters?

How: The methods

Keep it simple and only tell the critical pieces that they need to follow your work

When: for proposals

In proposals for theses or funding, you need to map out when things will happen. For talks at conferences, this is not included

  • A timeline
  • A flow chart
  • A gantt chart

Don’t read from the slides and other important advice

  • Most struggle with text smaller than 18 point
  • If you add text and talk, the audience can read or listen, not both
  • Lots of text is overwhelming
  • Stick with pictures as much as possible
  • Face the audience.
  • Remember that you know this better than anyone. Take a deep breath, and tell them your story. They’re there because they are interested.
  • Project!
  • A slide a minute
  • Take your time. You WILL rush.
  • Enthusiasm can overcome a great deal of problems
  • You are the master of your destiny– you tell the story YOU want to tell
  • What to do with that stupid pointer…
  • Don’t blind people
  • Don’t circle.
  • When in doubt, avoid it

The last word

  • What do you want the audience to remember?
  • You tell the story
  • 1-2 key points


  • What do you do when you don’t know the answer?
  • Admit it
  • Often, the issue is the question isn’t clear. Restate what you think the question is and answer that
  • Most people ask simple questions. Don’t assume there’s something really complicated going on
  • If the questioner keeps going, suggest you talk off line or after the session