"Do"s and "Don't"s for Presentations
I have attended a large number of presentations, both academic and non-, delivered by both experienced and not so experienced presenters. The following is a list of points of advice that I add to from time to time. Bear in mind that much of it is subjective, and hence influenced by personal taste. However, there are also many things that any presenter should take heed of (though many do not!).
- Look at the audience: have the slides on your laptop screen as well as on the projector screen, and don't look at the projected image unless you are pointing to it.
- With a laptop, remember you have a mouse cursor to use to point at items on your slides, rather than trying to reach up to the projected image.
- Make eye contact with the audience. Practise this!
- Keep your hands out of your pockets, and never fiddle with the contents of your pockets whilst presenting.
- Don't stand rigidly behind a lectern. If the microphone allows it, wander around along the stage, using gestures to indicate what you mean. This may well help to relax you.
- Ensure that the microphone is close enough to your mouth. Lapel microphones should be close to your collar, not half-way down your chest. In the latter case the result will be that the gain is turned up too high, and feedback will be audible.
- Know your slides! Do not appear surprised when the next slide comes up.
- Talk only about what is on a slide: do not be tempted to describe yet more key points. In this way you will not end up discussing an entire slide that you will then bring up on the screen, (leading to the annoying "Oh, I've already talked about this").
- Use a template for your slides. Whilst black text on a white background is easy and there is nothing to distract, it also appears very unprofessional. Ensure your headings are clear and that your bullet points have clear bullets to them, rather than only being on separate lines.
- If you can, include the slide number and number of slides in the footer: this is great for people to know how long is left of your talk.
- Don't put too much text on each slide. There should be approximately 5 bullet points (at most a short sentence each) per slide. More than that and you risk your audience attempting to read your paragraphs and not listening to you.
- Don't put too little text on your slides. Single words per bullet point are normally unhelpful. Slides are indeed an aide memoir for you as the speaker, but they should also be useful as notes for the attendees (especially if they don't catch a couple of your explanations of the points, they can figure out the main message from the text on the slide).
- Do use some images/graphs/diagrams: they make things interesting. Otherwise the presentation becomes very drab. Don't use a diagram per slide unless it's necessary, as you will be left with too little space.
- Don't use huge numbers of animations in your slides: they get annoying. Check that any videos that you are intending to show will run on your intended target machine.