Making a presentation

Your research is finished, or almost there.  It’s time to share your results – at a conference, with a research group, or in a class. An oral presentation is meant to showcase your work and tell the story. Here are some points to consider as you prepare for your presentation.

Presentation 470x300
Allison Baker 2011 NASA Space Grant Symposium

10 Presentation Tips

Be sure to click on the link above to see a brief PowerPoint presentation on tips and caveats for using computer-generated presentation aids.  The presenter's notes for each slide are also included. 

Timing

Find out how long your talk should be and stick to it. Practice giving the talk and make appropriate edits if you go overtime. It is always fine to end a bit early – then your audience has time to ask questions. In general, plan on about 1 minute per PowerPoint slide plus time for questions.

Audience

Will you be speaking to a general audience or to specialists in your field? You may need to define certain terms – beware of jargon and acronyms.

Content

What are the points you want to convey? What is the main point you want audience members to remember about your talk the following day? What is significant about your project? What is most interesting or surprising?

Organization

Be judicious about the amount of information you include. At the minimum, your talk should (1) introduce you; (2) present your research question and why it matters; (3) describe how you conducted your project; (4) explain what you found out and what it means; and (5) conclude with a summary of your main points and acknowledgements.

PowerPoint, graphics, or other displays

These tools should emphasize important points and help your audience follow your argument. Make sure your font size and all graphical displays are large enough to be easily read from a distance. Limit the amount of text on each slide; one “rule of thumb” is no more than 6 words across and 6 lines of text. 

You should consider using one of NAU's PowerPoint templates.

If you’re using PowerPoint, test it using the on-site technology set-up ahead of time, if at all possible. DO be prepared to give your talk even if technology fails (so bring a printout of your slides to speak from, in case disaster strikes).

Tone

This is likely to be a somewhat formal occasion, so prepare, dress, act, and speak accordingly. DO share your enthusiasm for your project.

Practice

Practice – practice – practice speaking slowly, clearly, and loudly enough to be heard over typical audience (e.g., coughing, shifting in chairs, turning pages in a program) and room (e.g., air conditioning, hallway talk, opening/closing doors) noises.

  • Avoid reading your talk – or your PowerPoint slides
  • Do look at individual audience members
  • Pause when you take a breath (you’ll think better)
  • Don’t agonize over mistakes or say you’re sorry
  • Pause to let strong ideas sink in – your audience needs time to think about key points

Additional resources

There are many resources available on the internet to help you; a search using “good research presentation” yields many results. The following website has many more helpful tips on these, and other, topics

Six Minutes: Speaking and Presentation Skills