Guidelines for Oral Presentations

1. Presentation

A. Speak, don’t read

Reading results in a dull presentation delivered in a monotone and devoid of all natural gestures precludes the effective use of a pointer with slides and is often difficult to understand because written material is usually intended for reading, not listening. Slides can act as cues for remembering what to say so that memorizing everything should not be necessary.

B. Style is important

Speak in a conversational style. Use note cards if additional help (in addition to visual aids) is needed for remembering what to say. Avoid slang and highly technical jargon. Let yourself go. Be enthusiastic about the subject material. Feel good about what you present. Everyone has a different style. Emulate what you like about other people’s style of presentation but don’t force it upon yourself.

C. Clarity

Style in presentation is difficult to develop unless you speak clearly and forcefully. If you are uncertain about audibility, get a friend to sit at the back of the room when you practice your talk.

D. Vary pace

The pace of the presentation should be varied—speeding up for minor details and slowing down for important points. If the talk is too long, shorten it to fit the allotted time; do not speed up the pace.

E. Stay within the designated time

The maximum length of a presentation at a scientific meeting is typically 12 minutes, not including time for a few questions. A seminar presentation is typically 45 minutes at maximum (followed by questions).

F. Avoid distractions

Be careful to avert distracting behaviors. Do not turn the lights on and off repeatedly during the presentation. Do not play with the pointer or other objects while speaking, etc. Avoid using animated slides with sound or other distracting graphics.

2. Content

  1. When presenting the results of a research study, the seminar should include the following elements: Title Slide Include names of authors as well as a descriptive title of the research and author’s college affiliation. Introduction Tell why the study was initiated and how it relates to the broader field. Provide relevant background information to allow the listener to know the rationale of the work. Try to make the subject interesting to the audience. State succinctly the question(s) or problems that are investigated by the study. Materials and Methods Clearly state the specific purpose of the investigation. Results Do not include trivial details. Explain how the method or approach tests the hypothesis. Include photographs or figures. Discussion Illustrate with graphs or tables and tell how the results relate to the hypothesis. Explain what your results mean (i.e., the biological significance of your findings). Make sure you’re your tables are legible. Tables from Microsoft Word that are pasted directly into PowerPoint are not necessarily adequate for presentation in PowerPoint. Summary A summary recapitulates, in highly condensed form, the essential findings. Conclusion The conclusion is a statement that attempts to put findings in a greater context and properly includes some element of speculation, clearly stated as such. The conclusion should also indicate clearly how the results provide an answer to the question(s) initially posed in the introduction. Make sure the audience gets a “take home message”. Propose questions for future investigation. Acknowledgements Provide credit to those individuals or groups of individuals who helped you complete the study.
  2. Try to set the level of difficulty of the material presented to the level of sophistication or knowledge of the audience. It may be better to underestimate than overestimate the audience.
  3. Do not be overambitious. The natural tendency is to try to do too much during a talk. This results in a poorly given talk.

3. Visual aids

The key to a good presentation is a set of well-designed visual aids (use PowerPoint).

  1. Slides must be visually simple in order to be understood in a short time that they are to be viewed by the audience. A good slide is self-explanatory when viewed for 15 to 30 seconds. This means that axes and other lines must be clearly labeled with both conceptual and unit terms. Do not use font smaller than 18-20. Avoid putting too much information on your slides. Avoid distracting slides. Slide formats that work best are dark blue backgrounds with white or yellow font.
  2. A general rule of thumb—1 slide for each minute of your presentation. Do not plan on including every item from your research paper in your presentation.
  3. Each slide should be used to illustrate only one point. In all cases, use short statements. Avoid multi-line paragraphs, which are difficult to read.
  4. Generally, tables should not be used. It is usually easier to find a graph substitute for a table that better illustrates the point being made. If a table must be used, the table should not be larger than four columns and four rows. Use large font.

4. The question period

Be sure that you understand the question that was asked. If you are uncertain, ask the questioner to rephrase the question. Answer the questions directly and briefly. Be quick to say that you do not know the answer if that is the case.

5. Rehearsal

Though not part of the presentation, rehearsals are essential to develop the qualities discussed above and make a top-notch presentation. Have someone sit in on your rehearsal and criticize your presentation. Include your visual aids in the rehearsals. Your rehearsals should be held far enough in advance so that changes and suggestions can be incorporated in time for your final presentation. Become familiar with the projection facilities before you give your talk.