Giving a Talk:

Delivering Your Presentation

[A Figure with Complicated Equations]
Avoid trying to dazzle your audience with impressive looking equations or complicated lines of reasoning.

Tell'em what you're going say...

An effective way to emphasize the take-away message is to repeat it several times during your talk---without seeming repetitious, of course. This can be accomplished by presenting an outline of your talk at the beginning. After presenting the arguments that support your take-away message, you can recap these points at the end of your talk.
     A typical outline for a talk looks like this:

  • Introduction

  • Point 1

  • Point 2

  • Point 3

  • Conclusions

where points 1-3 represent the take-away message. Some speakers like to return to the outline slide after each point is covered, to show the logical progression through the talk.
     The outline almost invariably contains some type of introduction as the first point. Whether the audience is a group of experts in the field or a group of novices, all audiences require some type of introduction to your topic. Such an introduction will attempt to place the subject of the talk into a wider context; it will also sometimes review some of the background material (e.g., history, terminology, and notation) needed to understand the talk. For an audience of non-specialists, the introduction may take up as much as half the time of the talk. Always start with what you know the audience knows, to make them comfortable at the beginning.
     The points of the outline should be organized in logical fashion, so that point 2 follows logically from point 1, point 3 from point 2, and so forth. Try to plan the talk with an easy-to-follow storyline. To catch audience attention, you can feed them interesting tidbits to be explained later in the talk.
     Avoid trying to dazzle your audience with impressive looking equations or complicated lines of reasoning. Your aim should be to educate, not to impress. Even the most seasoned expert in the field will not be impressed by an unintelligible, overly detailed presentation.

Say it...

Once you have placed the subject of your talk into the proper context and have reviewed the necessary background material, it is time to convey the essence of each of the points in your take-away message in an effective manner. This is where you will spend most time, but it may not be the part that the audience will remember most.
     Follow your outline. Present, in the simplest way possible, the arguments that support each point in your outline. A useful rule of thumb is to use a new slide for the presentation of each new idea, or argument. More on this later.

Tell'em what you've said.

At the end of your presentation, it is a good idea to recap the take-away message. The usual way to do this is to provide a summary slide, with the take-away message shown in point form. This summary will usually conclude your presentation, except in the case of thesis presentations, where it is typical to provide some suggestions for further work. If appropriate, you can invite the audience to ask questions at this point.

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Frank R. Kschischang, September 4, 1995,