Better presentations

It is different to deliver presentations at a bars or at conferences. Know your audience!
(photo: djfrat)

You might have already checked out how to write better and make better figures. But do you know how to deliver?

Golden Rule: Know your audience. If you know who is at the receiving end, you have a better chance of succeeding!

Design your presentations

Some more tips for designing better presentations

  • Stick to one message per slide
  • Don’t over crowd the slides: if not people will be distracted to read all that you wrote, instead of listening to you. Reduce the noise to content ratio!
  • Don’t go too technical in the talk (avoid cumbersome equations as much as possible), focus on the physical ideas/message: if the panel has questions on the technicalities they will ask you later.
  • You can try to leave some ‘low hanging fruits’ for the panel to ask. This means intentionally not explaining something that you know well so that they can ask, and you can show off. But use scarcely! don’t make your message obscure on purpose!
  • In terms of designing the slides, try to use one (at most two) fonts and only a hand full of colors, which ideally match each other. Multiple can distract people from your message. Here and here is a website to choose a color palette that looks nice
  • You may use contrasting colors to highlight stuff!
  • A tip on design taken from photography: to design a slide, partition it in a 3×3 grid and place objects in vertices or within squares. This will focus the attention on them more easily.
  • Use builds!! Don’t show everything at once. By showing things sequentially it will help to focus the attention of the crowd to what you want them to think of. A good rule of thumb is to ask your self: do I need a pointer to give this slide/talk? If the answer is mostly no, then the design is likely to be good.
  • I would recommend not to use Beamer, it is too rigid and too ‘research-paper’ like.
  • Don’t let the software limitations decide your design, but rather design the slides first and then use the software to make your design come true! What I mean is that, before jumping into creating the slides, think of the structure, content of your slides. Sketch them out!
  • You can avoid bullet points all together since they add unnecessary noise to your slide. You may separate the text with spaces such that the eye doesn’t need bullet points (unlike in written text).

Delivering your presentations

Some tips to deliver better your presentations

  • Practice your talk before delivering it so that it goes smooth! But no need to memorize text, if not it will sound artificial
  • Short jokes or stories: You may tell them and they indeed help to not bore the audience. The only rule is that they have to help you deliver a message or be related to the content in some evident way. If not, they do more harm than good
  • Be pedagogical. Don’t assume that because they work in the field they know everything/most of what you are going to say, especially technical details.
  • Related to the above: never underestimate the satisfaction people get when listening to something they already understand, so don’t worry of being simple or basic! Being pedagogical will play in your advantage and will NOT make you look simplistic or stupid, since you are very familiar with the details behind it if they ask.
  • When delivering it: try to avoid meaningless words like ‘its like’ (in english) or saying ‘eeeee’ to fill in space.
  • Try to always start and finish complete sentences. Seems trivial, but not all people do it: some people jump form sentence to sentence as they find different ways of saying the same thing. This is on reason why practicing is good
  • You are the expert, so no need to be nervous, even if you don’t believe it you know more than them about your work! They know other stuff well of course, but you can always bring the questions back to what you know. Even in advance, by designing the talk so that the natural questions that are asked go to what you know.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of silences to emphasize important parts! A pause after an important sentence helps to attract attention!
  • Also, notice that if you give a talk and you press B or W the screen turns black or white, respectively. This focuses the attention to you without distractions. An extremely powerful resource to emphasize important stuff!


A very nice website with 14 tips by Garr Reynolds.

Here is a book I enjoyed tailored for academic talks: