Constructing and Giving Research Presentations Paul Wagner (for MICS 2005)
Major Messages • Organization is Key • Start by following your paper (if you have one) • Otherwise, use an outline to develop your talk • Emphasize interesting / stronger areas • De-emphasize less interesting / weaker areas • Revise to Increase Quality • Practice to Increase Confidence and Delivery • Avoid the Common Problems • Running Out of Time • Reading Your Slides • Others…
Organization • What you know/have done guides your talk • Start by outlining • Based on paper if written • Based on knowledge, current research • Same sections can be used as for papers; e.g. • Introduction • Background • Work Done / Contributions Made / Primary Ideas • Future Work (if any) • Conclusions
Organization (2) • Generate a template for your presentation • Steps • Develop a slide for each major idea • Write idea in title area • Place only sub-ideas in text area • If two or more major sub-ideas, give each one its own slide • Continue until have a fairly stable set of ideas • Try to edit at this level!
Organization (3) • Requirements vary by context, but… • In most cases, your presentation does not have to match your paper exactly • Should follow it generally, of course • Can emphasize the most interesting points • Generates more discussion/questions • Can de-emphasize the least interesting or weakest points • Don’t spend much time on areas where you don’t have a lot to say / where there’s a lot more work to be done • Avoid talking about areas where people will jump on you
Revise • Parallels to Writing • First draft is not a keeper • Revise to: • Improve/add structure • Can use parallel structure in talks, too • Remove weak points • Find typos • Edit at the outline level • Saves time if you don’t eliminate entire sections
Practice • Practicing your talk is essential! • First few iterations • Practice alone • Some recommend using mirror • Time it • Final iterations • In front of friend / colleague / spouse / significant other • Not important that they know the content – you’re just getting comfortable talking in front of people • Time it
Avoiding Common Problems (1) • Running Out Of Time • Problem • Very painful to use up entire session on background, get cut off just as you’re getting to your main result • Solutions • Practice several times (including timing) • Present main messages first (as was done in this presentation) • Even if you run out of time, you’ve told them the main messages
Avoiding Common Problems (2) • Reading Your Slides • Problem • Novice presenters often read their slides verbatim • Boring to audience (they can read, too) • Takes away impact • Solution(s) • Use phrases on slides that lead you to complete sentences that you speak • Practice until you’re comfortable speaking on the fly based on phrases
Avoiding Common Problems (3) • Nervousness • Problem • Being nervous can: • Slow you down • Interfere with the continuity of your presentation, and • Distract the audience • Solution(s) • Practice until you’re comfortable giving this presentation • Practice until you’re comfortable giving presentations in general • Have I mentioned that it really helps you to practice?
Avoiding Common Problems (4) • Too Much On Slides • Problem • Some people tend to put complete sentences down where they just should have bullet points; this leads to reading the entire sentence as is and makes the slides look cluttered • Example above • Solution(s) • Use short phrases, not complete sentences • Give each point its own bullet • Don’t list N items under one bullet • The later items in the list tend to get lost
Avoiding Common Problems (5) • Typos • Problem • Typographical errors in slides detract from your message • Viewers tend to get hung up on the errors • Solution(s) • Proofread your slides carefully • Have a friend proofread them as well
Other Notes • Session Chairs • At conferences, there may be session chairs that help program move along, warn you re: time limit • Talk to them before presentation, find out what their policy is • Is some of the presentation period reserved for questions? • Is any time used for transitions between speakers? • At what point(s) will you be warned before the end of your presentation? • Good to try to watch the session chair, but . . . • Don’t get distracted by them • Don’t entirely rely on them (may miss their signals)
Figures and Diagrams • Fine to include these • Don’t make them too complex • Harder to get details across in a presentation • Remember that you’re trying to get people to understand it on the spot, not after an hour of study • If you do show detail, remember that you don’t have to discuss it all • Highlight the major points
Other Resources • John Carlis, Notes from Talk on How to Give A Talk • (Postscript version) http://www-users.cs.umn.edu/~carlis/talk-on-talk-1.ps • (PDF version) http://www.cs.uwec.edu/~wagnerpj/talks/carlis/talk-on-talk-1.pdf • Edward Tufte, Essay on The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint • Available at: http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/powerpoint