Giving Effective Presentations Marie desJardins (firstname.lastname@example.org) CMSC 691B February 17, 2004
Sources • Robert L. Peters, Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning a Master’s or Ph.D. (Revised Edition). NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997. • Justin Zobel, Writing for Computer Science: The Art of Effective Communication. Singapore: Springer-Verlag, 1997. • Mark D. Hill, “Oral presentation advice” • Simon L. Peyton Jones, John Hughes, and John Launchbury, “How to give a good research talk” • Patrick Winston, “Some lecturing heuristics” • Dave Patterson, “How to have a bad career in research/academia”
Outline • Rules for presentations • General guidelines for preparing talks • Paper presentation guidelines for this class
Rule # 1 • Know what on earth you’re doing up there! • Rule #2: Know what you want to say • Rule #3: Know your audience • Rule #4: Know how long you have
Rule #2: Know What You Want to Say • Just giving a project summary is not interesting to most people • You should give enough detail to get your interesting ideas across (and to show that you’ve actually solved the problem), but not enough to lose your audience • They want to hear what you did that was cool and why they should care • Preferably, they’ll hear the above two points at the beginning of the talk, over the course of the talk, and at the end of the talk • If they’re intrigued, they’ll ask questions or read your paper • Whatever you do, don’t just read your slides!
Rule #3: Know Your Audience • Don’t waste time on basics if you’re talking to an audience in your field • Even for these people, you need to be sure you’re explaining each new concept clearly • On the other hand, you’ll lose people in a general audience if you don’t give the necessary background • In any case, the most important thing is to emphasize what you’ve done and why they should care!
Rule #4: Know How Long You Have • How long is the talk? Are questions included? • A good heuristic is 2-3 minutes per slide • If you have too many slides, you’ll skip some or—worse—rush desperately to finish. Avoid this temptation!! • Almost by definition, you never have time to say everything about your topic, so don’t worry about skipping some things! • Unless you’re very experienced giving talks, you should practice your timing: • A couple of times on your own to get the general flow • At least one dry run to work out the kinks • A run-through on your own the night before the talk
Comments on Zobel / Peters • Zobel recommends one minute per slide • Unless you have VERY little information on each slide, this is a racing speed • Peters recommends writing out your presentation, word for word • This is a very bad idea for most people, and will lead to extremely stilted delivery • The only alternative, if you’re not an experienced public speaker, is to PRACTICE
Organizing a Talk • Talks are linear: • Your audience can’t flip back to see what you said last • They can’t use the section headers as a guideline • → Help them keep track of where you are in the talk • → Don’t try to cover as much ground as you would in a technical paper • Give an overview (& use it throughout) • Start with a slide or two on key ideas/contributions • Give a high-level summary (or simple example) before you dive down into (not too many) details • Recap at the end
Slideology 101 • Don’t just read your slides! • Use the minimum amount of text necessary • Use examples • Use a readable, simple, yet elegant format • Use color to emphasize important points, but avoidtheexcessiveuseofcolor • “Hiding” bullets like this is annoying (but sometimes effective), but… • Don’t fidget, and… • Don’t just read your slides! Abuse of animation is a cardinal sin!
How to Give a Bad TalkAdvice from Dave Patterson, summarized by Mark Hill • Thou shalt not be neat • Thou shalt not waste space • Thou shalt not covet brevity • Thou shalt cover thy naked slides • Thou shalt not write large • Thou shalt not use color • Thou shalt not illustrate • Thou shalt not make eye contact • Thou shalt not skip slides in a long talk • Thou shalt not practice
Handling Questions • Questions during the talk: • If your presentation will answer the question later, say so and move on • If your presentation won’t answer the question, either: • Give a brief answer • Defer the question to the end of the talk • Make sure you understand the question before answering it • Ask for clarification if you need it • Restate the question, and ask whether you’ve gotten it right • Have backup slides for questions you can anticipate (but don’t have time for in the main presentation)
Goals of Paper Presentations • Convey why this is an important and/or interesting problem • Review key ideas in the paper • Convey why this is an important and/or interestingapproach • Critique the work • Stimulate discussion
Paper Summary Presentations • Content: You should provide a well organized presentation of the key contributions and important ideas in the paper. • Timing: You should aim for a ten-minute presentation. • This works out to (roughly) four to six slides – no more! • As in a real talk, you will get 5-minute, 2-minute, and time’s-up warnings from the session chair. • I will cut you off if you go too long! • Audience: Your audience consists of computer science graduate students. (I don’t count.) • Some are in your field, some are not • Most will not have read the paper (at least not in depth) • You can’t assume a lot of existing knowledge • On the other hand, you only have ten minutes! Be selective!
Summary Presentation Content • Just as when writing a paper on your own work: • Describethe problem • Starting witha simple example can be very helpful • Explainwhy it’s important(or at least why they think it’s important) • Statehow the authors solved the problem at an appropriate level of detail • Tell whatexplicit and implicit claimsthe authors make • Describe the authors’experimental and/or analytical evidencefor these claims (and indicatewhether you think the evidence is sufficient to support the claims) • Stimulate discussion by pointing out interesting aspects of the approach, flaws, limitations/assumptions, open questions, ...
Giving the Presentation • PowerPoint slides are fine, but not required • Draft slides can be sent to me* for review, if you want feedback beforehand • Feel free to use the whiteboard, especially to work through an example • Practice your presentation, even if it’s just to yourself, to make sure your timing is correct • As with written summaries, leave out details that you don’t have time to explain • Be prepared to fill in the missing details during the discussion session if you are asked questions! * Draft slides must be sent at least 24 hours before your talk
Grading and Feedback • Students are required to fill out a short feedback form for each presentation • You will receive these forms • I will also give you written feedback • Your grade will be based on: • Your level of preparation • The clarity of your presentation • The timing of your presentation • Other students’ evaluation of your presentation • The ensuing discussion