Presentation Guidelines

This is intended to be a guide for students presenting their thesis and dissertation work. This applies mostly to your research and/or final defense, but the ideas in general apply to any other presentation that you might give.

  • "2 minutes per slide". Don't kid yourself. Ignore rationalizations like "but some of the slides include large pictures" or "some of them are animations", etc. Don't count the title slide. Beyond that, all other slides are 2 minutes per slide. No exceptions, not even if you talk fast. Note that sometimes the time stated is not just how fast can you read the slide. It is time that it takes to transition there, to allow for clarifications, etc. So, the rule is clear 2 minutes per slide. This means that a 40 minute presentation has 20 slides + 1 title slide. Period.
  • Your presentation is not intended to be the "live" version of your writeup. You presentation must be shorter and more condensed than your writeup. The goal is not to present what you wrote. The goal is to present your work. In that sense, it has the same goal of your writeup. The writeup's goal is to present all of your work to someone that knows nothing about your work. The defense presentation's goal is to present the highlight of your work to people that have already read your document. Both are presentations of your work.
  • To follow up on the previous goal, do "not" present your literature review. Do not present citations in your slides. Just talk about what is known and what you have contributed to the state of knowledge.
  • Leave the acknowledgements to the writeup. You might want to put references to the grant (that paid for your work) in the title slide if you want, but the acknowledgements belong in the writeup.
  • And, please, please, please, leave out the "outline of my talk" slide. Note what most of these slides have:
  • Outline of my talk
    • Problem definition
    • Previous work
    • Method
    • Data collection
    • Results
    • Conclusions

    Now, doesn't that apply to all presentations you have ever heard in your life? If so, then don't tell me that you are presenting a presentation. It is a waste of time. Start your presentation with the problem you are addressing. Period.

  • Finally, practice your presentation in front of a mirror. By the time you present, you should have done this twice on your own.

Other resources

Updates

Many of you will be tempted to tweak the above suggestions to suit your personal style. See below for updates based on experiences, all fairly recent.

  • Student: "I have 50 slides but I speak fast"... what is wrong with this statement? It fails to recognize that the presentation is not a monologue. You (the student) might speak fast, but I (the professor) can't consume information that fast. Speed of presentation != speed of understanding. Also I (the professor) will ask you to slow down or will ask you to clarify something and before you realize it, it takes 2 hours just to get anywhere near the end of your deck of slides.
  • Student: "I ignored your rule but it is because I have lots of slides with animations or maps or images or tables or ...". Again, this seems to be failure to recognize that the more slides you have the more questions you will get... the more questions you get, the more time it takes to get through your slides. There are no short-cuts. Work hard to keep your slides to a minimum.