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Presentation Do’s & Don’ts A Personal View on Effective Presentations Hank Streeter All material, except as noted, © 2003-2005 by Harold Streeter Presentations are everywhere In your academic career Part of most curricula

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presentation do s don ts

Presentation Do’s & Don’ts

A Personal View on Effective Presentations

Hank Streeter

All material, except as noted, © 2003-2005 by Harold Streeter

presentations are everywhere
Presentations are everywhere
  • In your academic career
    • Part of most curricula
    • SE students, in particular, are expected to make presentations in several courses
  • In your professional career
    • Integral part of professional communication
    • Important if you are an employee, absolutely critical if you are self-employed
  • In your personal life
    • Part of most organized activities


presentation qualities
Presentation qualities
  • Targeted audience. Have you defined your audience? Background? Motivation?
  • Clarity. How clear is the presentation to an audience member?
  • Learnability. Can an audience member grasp the basics of your topic from the presentation?
  • Memorability. Will an audience member remember some key points of the presentation?
  • Knowledge transference. Can an audience member apply an aspect of your presentation?


what we ll discuss
What we’ll discuss
  • Planning your presentation
    • What to do before you begin filling in PowerPoint slides
  • Designing your presentation
    • Style and good practice guidelines
  • Logistics and preparation
    • Debugging your presentation and your knowledge
  • Delivering your presentation
    • What to do before, while, and after you present
  • Goal: To help you achieve your targeted presentation qualities


what we won t discuss
What we won’t discuss
  • Structuring your presentation
    • Determined by presentation forum conventions and/or requirements
  • Comprehensive mechanics of building a PowerPoint presentation
    • University provides classes in using MS Office tools
  • Specific language usage


telling your story
Telling your story
  • A presentation is not a monologue, it is a conversation between you and the audience
  • Although you do most of the talking, your audience is constantly giving you feedback
  • Any topic whatsoever can be presented in an interesting, engaging manner
    • Tip: Listen to Garrison Keillor (A Prairie Home Companion)
  • Try starting out by describing your work to a (willing) relative, friend, or colleague

Planning Your Presentation

type of presentation dictates its style
Type of presentation dictates its style
  • Lecture
    • Length: 1.5 to 3 hours
    • Detail level: Very high. Reference material for class
    • Audience: Specified prerequisite knowledge; motivated
  • Conference presentation
    • Length: 15-30 minutes
    • Detail level: High. Focused on a single topic
    • Audience: Most will be knowledgeable in the field; motivated
  • SE Research Seminar: Very close to conference presentation

Planning Your Presentation

know your topic well
Know your topic well!
  • Your topic is not limited to what is contained in your presentation
  • Audience is free to ask any question related to any aspect of your work
    • Review every idea, concept, or statement critically from every angle
    • Be prepared to answer any related question
  • Friends or colleagues—technical or otherwise—can be a great help
    • Feedback on presentation qualities
    • Presentation timing

Planning Your Presentation

presenter s tools
Presenter’s tools
  • Storyboards
    • Date from the early filmmaking days
    • Use Post-It® notes to sketch out your slide ideas
    • Use a blank wall or whiteboard to work out sequencing
  • PowerPoint tools
    • Outliner. Excellent tool for capturing your stream-of-conscience thoughts quickly
    • Slide tray. Provides a birds-eye view of your presentation and allows easy editing: insertion, deletion, and rearrangement

Planning Your Presentation

basic formatting guidelines
Basic formatting guidelines
  • Cardinal rule: Keep it simple
  • Choose a simple background. Complicated backgrounds compete with your material
  • In a well-lit room, use dark type on a light background
  • In a darkened room, use light type on a dark background
  • Include:
    • Number continuation slides in the title; e.g. (1/3)
    • Section footer to help maintain location
    • Running page number to help pacing
    • Use 8 pt. font to minimize intrusion

Designing Your Presentation

getting your information across
Getting your information across
  • Give each slide a short, meaningful title
  • Limit bullet items to three lines of text
  • Follow up rules and definitions with an example
  • Spell out acronyms the first time they are used
    • Example: The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), is located at…. The MCA houses…
  • If you can illustrate a concept with a figure, do so
  • Turn off the slide background to gain more slide real estate, if needed

Designing Your Presentation

maurizio cattelan 1 2
Maurizio Cattelan (1/2)
  • Maurizio Cattelan was born in Padua, Italy, in 1960. He did not attend art school but taught himself. He has had numerous group and individual exhibitions, both in Europe and in the U.S., beginning with an exhibition entitled ‘Strategie’ in Genoa in 1990.
  • Felix is a twenty-six foot high and twenty-six foot long reproduction of domestic cat skeleton inspired by Sue, the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton at the Field Museum in Chicago. Felix transforms an ordinary household pet into an ominous, threatening presence.

Information adapted from MCA and eyestorm™ sources.

Designing Your Presentation

maurizio cattelan 2 2
Maurizio Cattelan (2/2)

Felix at the MCA

  • Twenty-six feet high, twenty-six feet long
  • Inspired by Sue, the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton at the Field Museum
  • Transforms a household pet into an ominous, threatening presence

© Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

The Artist

  • Born in Padua, 1960
  • Self-taught
  • First exhibition: ‘Strategie’, Genoa, 1990

© eyestorm

handling source code
Handling source code
  • Don’t display large amounts of source code!
  • Use code snippets in a different font to illustrate important ideas:

ListIterator listIterator = listItems.listIterator();

while ( listIterator.hasNext() ) {

…Tasks performed on elements of listItems…


  • IMPORTANT! Always walk the audience through each step of the code

Use callouts like this to highlight important items.

Designing Your Presentation

technology for dl students
Technology for DL students
  • DL students need to provide some sort of narration with their presentations.
  • The simplest approach is to record a sound directly into the presentation like this:
  • Another option is to use Microsoft Producer for PowerPoint to record a synchronized audio/slide presentation
    • Sample at my faculty Web site (requires IE 5.0+)
    • Producer available free at:

presentation length
Presentation length
  • Don’t overload the audience with information:

More slides more information

  • How many slides?
    • Depends upon information density of slides and presentation style
    • Higher information density = fewer slides
  • My rules of thumb:
    • About 10-15 content slides per hour for lectures
    • About twice that for conference presentations
  • Determine your own rates through practice

Designing Your Presentation

practice practice practice
Practice, practice, practice
  • Practice your presentation at leasttwice before your scheduled delivery date
  • A lunch bunch with fellow students or colleagues is an ideal practice setting
  • During practice:
    • Take it seriously: do the presentation for real!
    • Be open to criticism and suggestions
    • Take notes and make revisions as soon as possible
    • Have someone record time spent on each slide

Keys to Being Well-Prepared

advance logistics
Advance logistics
  • Create a time-based checklist:
    • Arrangements for special facilities
    • What you need and what needs to be done before you arrive
    • What needs to be done when you arrive
    • Any post-presentation tasks that might be needed
  • If you need special facilities, notify the appropriate parties well in advance
  • If possible, check out the facilities beforehand to be sure they work properly

Keys to Being Well-Prepared

before you arrive
Before you arrive
  • Consult your checklist of what you need and what you need to do
  • Load your presentation on a Web-accessible site
  • Create a copy of your presentation and any related files on floppy, flash drive, and/or CD
    • Not all PCs have accessible USB ports!
    • Bring an extension USB cord for your flash drive!
  • If you’re using a laptop, don’t forget the power adaptor, network adaptor, floppy, and CD drive
  • If you’re using handouts, copy and collate them well in advance

The Big Day

before you present
Before you present
  • Load your presentation onto the presentation machine
  • Preview all the slides, if possible
  • Technical risk areas include:
    • Fonts
    • Diagrams and graphics
    • Animation
    • If using a laptop: compatibility with display device
  • Confirm that any special facilities still work

The Big Day

during your presentation
During your presentation
  • Manage your presentation, audience, and time
  • Walk through your agenda and indicate when questions will be appropriate
  • Don’t hide behind the desk—interact with your audience and your slides
  • Scan the audience and make eye contact
  • Walk your audience through each element of each slide
  • Try not to read from the slide—paraphrase instead
  • Monitor your time with clock and slide number

The Big Day

  • Answer questions to the best of your ability
    • Repeat question if the speaker is soft-spoken
    • Think before you answer
    • If appropriate, identify an educated guess as such
    • Don’t fabricate! “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer
  • You may need to judge if a line of questioning is appropriate
  • To maintain momentum, defer extensive questioning until after the presentation

The Big Day

after your presentation
After your presentation
  • Let your audience know when you are finished
  • Open the floor to questions
  • Scan the room to be sure everyone has a chance
  • Avoid letting one or two persons dominate the comments or questions
  • Leave the presentation system in a ‘clean’ state for the next presenter
  • Attend to any post-presentation tasks

The Big Day