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Tips for short presentations

I've been to two conferences this year and I've again seen the same annoying features in many talks that have been warned against by numerous people over the years.

Here are some tips that might come in handy :

  • Color/Font scheme:
    • Small room => white background - dark fonts - Sans serif fonts
    • Large room => dark blue background - yellow/white fonts - Sans serif fonts
  • Font size:
    • At least 30 pt or
    • Take a printout, put it on the floor, stand straight, try to read it.  If you can, then the fonts are probably OK.
  • Number of slides:
    • Not more than 17 slides for a 20 minute talk.  That number includes the title and section breaks.  Consider this to be a strict limit.
  • Preparation:
    • If you consider yourself are a non-native speaker, write down what you want to say (for the entire talk).  Then practise a number of times until you have memorized your talk.  Then act it out so that the talk sounds natural.  Then present it.  Extempore speeches in English by people with a poor skills in spoken English are terrible to listen to.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.  This skill is needed by both native and non-native speakers of English - particularly native speakers.  Avoid regional accents if you can.

There are numerous other sources from which you can get tips on giving talks.   I've listed a few below:



Great idea for a post!  

One thing that I've noticed is with graphs. Many lines that appear just fine on a computer screen disappear when projected, or colors are hard to distinguish.

 I typically use one slide per minute as a guideline for my students and
postdoctoral fellows.  What's also important is that each slide not
contain too much information.

I also find it annoying when presenters read the words that are on their slides verbatim.  If you want to say something, it probably doesn't need to be written on the slide.  


Teng Li's picture


This will be a frequently-visited post.

Here are some more tips on giving presentations, covered in an earlier post on looking for a job in academia :

How to give a good seminar
Some tips on giving a good presentation



Arun K. Subramaniyan's picture

Recently I have been using the assertion-evidence design principle to create my slides. I have found it very useful especially to better organize my thoughts on the slide. I feel the audience warm up to my slides faster than they used to. Please take a look here .



MichelleLOyen's picture

A very nice resource is J. Paul Robinson's website , including

"Presentation 101 for graduate students" (A seminar on how to present a seminar!)

Downloadable *.ppt and *.pdf files available with lots of detail and examples of dos and don'ts. 

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