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Professor Saiedian developed these guidelines in the mid-2000s for his software engineering students, but any EECS student may use them in other classes, ignoring the SE-specific requirements. Other faculty may borrow these guidelines with proper attribution.

Guidelines and Suggestions for Making a

Guidelines and suggestions for making a good presentation

Delivering a formal presentation or talk can be a challenging task. To help you, I have outlined several comprehensive sets of guidelines and recommendations. The first set is designed to help you prepare your slides effectively, while others focuses on delivering a successful talk.

Preparing the presentation slides

  1. To ensure consistency, uniformity, and a cohesive and professional appearance for all student presentations, I developed a PowerPoint (PPT) template. Use this template to maintain consistency and uniformity for all course presentations.

  2. Always use a san serif font. San serif fonts are more legible and easier on eyes, especially in a large room with many people.

  3. Commence your presentation with a "title" slide, which serves as an introduction to both yourself and the topic of your talk. Subsequently, follow this with a "contents" or "organization" slide, providing a clear outline of the structure and key points of your presentation. This approach will help your audience understand the flow and content of your talk right from the beginning.

  4. Utilize the available itemization features and font sizes to create a visual hierarchy in your slides. Typically

    • First-level "bullets" start with an upper-case letter

    • Second-level text (usually marked with a hyphen) may begin with either an uppercase or lowercase letter. However, it's crucial to maintain consistency in your formatting; if text wraps, it should align under the text, not the bullet.

    • For third-level text, indent it further to the right, typically beginning with a different symbol and in lowercase. While it's acceptable to start with an uppercase letter for third-level text, it's important to maintain uniformity throughout your presentation.

      Generally, three levels of text are sufficient to maintain clarity and organization.

  5. When creating slides, refrain from overloading them with content. Include only one main point, expressed concisely in just a few words, on each slide. Make sure the text is large enough for everyone to read comfortably. Your slides should not contain everything you plan to say, and you should avoid reading them verbatim to your audience. Use your slides to visually support your message and provide supplementary information.

    Furthermore, steer clear of lengthy sentences, and ensure that your slides are not overly crowded. Simplify your content to make it more concise and visually appealing. This will enhance the clarity and impact of your presentation while keeping your audience engaged.

  6. Opt for enumeration, using Arabic numerals, only when there's a compelling reason to do so. Enumerating is best employed when emphasizing the order of items or when you need to reference specific points by their numbers. This will help maintain a clear and structured presentation.

  7. Color can be a valuable tool for emphasizing points or illustrating the structure of your presentation. However, its indiscriminate use can be distracting. Avoid busy backgrounds and cluttered slides with an excess of visual elements that can overwhelm the audience.

  8. Ensure consistency in your itemized (or enumerated) "bullets" by making them parallel. Begin each item with the same part of speech, such as a noun or a verb, and maintain uniformity in the type of language used, typically employing short phrases. This uniform structure will enhance the readability and coherence of your presentation.

  9. Every slide in your presentation should feature a unique, descriptive, and focused slide title. These titles should be clear and non-repetitive, providing the audience with a precise understanding of the content on each slide. This practice ensures that your presentation remains organized and engaging.

  10. Consistency is key across all slides, including font types (use san serif fonts), font color, and font sizes used in the presentation. Ensure a uniform visual style throughout. When utilizing color and other word-processor features, do so judiciously to enhance your slides. Be mindful that inconsistent or excessive use of these features can be distracting to your audience.

  11. Constrain the amount of information displayed on a single slide to only include essential content that you wish the audience to read. Avoid overwhelming slides with excessive text or data.

  12. Your slides should not duplicate the content of your spoken words; rather, they should complement and enhance your presentation. Use slides as visual aids that provide additional context, examples, or illustrations to support and reinforce the key points you're conveying verbally. This approach ensures that your presentation is engaging and effective.

  13. Include slide numbers on all slides in your presentation, except for the title slide. This helps your audience keep track of their position in the presentation and facilitates navigation, making it easier for them to reference specific slides if needed.

  14. Make sure to meticulously proofread your presentation for accurate spelling, proper grammar, and appropriate use of punctuation symbols. There is no room for errors in the English language in your presentation. If you require assistance, seek guidance from the KU Writing Center. This commitment to language precision will enhance the overall professionalism and impact of your presentation.

Time management is essential

  1. Practice, practice, practice!

  2. Practice is paramount for delivering a successful presentation. To excel in your presentation, conduct multiple full run-throughs before you present. My MS and Ph.D. students are known to have achieved excellence in their thesis defense presentations and received strong compliments. How? Through rigorous practices, often rehearsing their thesis defense with me 10-15 times. This level of preparation significantly contributes to their confidence, precision, being super relaxed, and the overall quality of their presentations.

  3. Effective time management is crucial; ensure that your presentation adheres to the allocated time limit. Staying within the time frame you've been given demonstrates respect for your audience and maintains the overall flow and professionalism of your presentation.

  4. If your presentation is scheduled for a specific duration of n minutes, conclude your presentation precisely at the nth minute. Overrunning or finishing early is a sign of inadequate preparation and practice, and is not acceptable. Being punctual with your timing reflects professionalism and demonstrates that you've put in the effort to deliver a well-prepared presentation.

Prepare for technological setbacks

Take into consideration potential technological constraints in your presentation preparation.

  1. To ensure accessibility, it's advisable to store a copy of your presentation slides in the cloud. This way, you can easily access them from various devices and have a backup in case of any unforeseen technical issues during your presentation.

  2. While cloud access is convenient, it may become unavailable due to technical issues (e.g., Internet connectivity). Therefore, it's wise to have a backup plan in place. For example, consider storing your presentation on a USB flash drive. This precaution ensures that you can still deliver your presentation even in the event of unexpected connectivity problems or other technical issues.

  3. If you intend to use your own device for your presentation, be aware that the presentation room or podium might not have the suitable cable for your device. Most of KU classrooms and conference rooms offer an HDMI connection. In anticipation of this, it's advisable to have a backup plan, such as carrying an HDMI adapter for your device. This ensures that you can seamlessly connect your device to the presentation equipment, avoiding any last-minute technical hitches.

  4. Always be prepared for the worst-case scenario: if you encounter a situation where there is no access to your digital presentation slides, have a contingency plan ready. Be prepared to deliver your presentation from printed slides or notes. This ensures that you can continue your presentation even in challenging technical situations.

Giving the presentation

  1. Your presentation should exhibit a strong sense of organization, consisting of an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion or conclusions, depending on the content. Make sure that this organizational structure is evident and clear to your audience. This approach not only enhances the understanding of your presentation but also keeps your audience engaged and informed.

  2. Speaking loudly and clearly is essential for effective communication during your presentation. A strong and clear voice ensures that your message is easily heard and understood by the audience. This also conveys confidence and professionalism, which can enhance the impact of your talk.

    Ensuring that your audience can hear you is paramount for the success of your presentation. If necessary, be prepared to speak more loudly than your usual conversational tone to make sure you are audible to everyone in the room. It's a good idea to have a friend or colleague in the audience who can signal you discreetly if your volume is insufficient. This feedback allows you to make real-time adjustments and maintain effective communication with your audience.

  3. Remember that flashing a slide for only a fraction of a second can be unhelpful and confusing for your audience. Prioritize clarity and comprehension in your presentation.

  4. To engage your audience effectively, avoid speaking in a monotone, as it can quickly bore your listeners. Steer clear of excessive hype or the use of information-free fillers like "um." Instead, project energy and vitality while maintaining a balanced and composed demeanor.

    Vary your tone of voice to emphasize key points in your presentation. Enunciate your words clearly and distinctly, and avoid mumbling. If you are a non-native speaker of English, strive to ensure proper pronunciation of words. Effective vocal delivery, combined with clear articulation, enhances the comprehensibility and engagement of your presentation.

  5. Follow the classic structure of "Tell your audience what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them." To achieve this, commence your presentation with your name and the title of your talk on the first slide. Immediately following, include an outline slide that provides an overview of your presentation. Throughout your talk, periodically refer back to the outline slide or verbally indicate your progress, such as "Moving on to point number three..." This ensures that your audience is aware of your presentation's structure.

  6. Conclude your presentation by summarizing your main points, possibly by revisiting the outline slide. This approach helps your audience follow your content, reinforces key takeaways, and maintains engagement.

  7. Avoid making your talk overly broad to the extent that you can only address the most basic concepts within the given time frame. It's crucial to practice your presentation carefully, ensuring that you can cover the chosen topic effectively within the allotted time. Remember, you're not expected to possess knowledge about every aspect of your topic, so don't hesitate to acknowledge when you're unsure and say, "I don't know." This is a far more credible approach than attempting to provide a false or inaccurate answer.

  8. Maintain a strong focus in your presentation, ensuring that the topic is adequately covered within the time allocated. During the question and answer session, keep your responses concise and directly related to the topic. It's important to be prepared to admit when you don't have an answer and say, "I don't know." This honesty and clarity contribute to a professional and trustworthy presentation.

  9. Ensure that your presentation is delivered at a level that is easily understandable to your audience. Strike a balance, making sure it's neither overly complicated nor overly simplistic. Tailoring your content to the audience's level of knowledge and interest is key to effective communication and engagement.

  10. Take into consideration the specific background and knowledge level of your audience. Keep in mind that you'll be addressing a group primarily composed of EECS (graduate) students and faculty at the university. While they may have extensive knowledge in various areas of computing sciences, they may not be well-versed in your particular topic. Strive to strike a balance in your presentation: avoid discussing topics at such a shallow level that your audience already knows nearly everything you're saying, but also refrain from assuming a level of subject knowledge that most of your audience does not possess. Tailoring your content to their background ensures that your presentation is both informative and engaging.

  11. Be thoroughly prepared and meticulously organized for your presentation. To deliver an effective talk, rehearse your presentation multiple times before presenting it to the audience. This practice ensures that you are confident, precise, and able to maintain the flow of your presentation, ultimately leading to a successful and engaging delivery.

  12. Utilizing a LaTeX or PowerPoint (PPT) presentation is indeed a strong indicator of your preparation and organization. Additionally, practicing your talk in front of another person, ideally a few times, can be highly beneficial. Ask them to time you and give you signals when your allotted time is running short. This external perspective and time management feedback can help you fine-tune your presentation and ensure a smooth, on-point delivery.

  13. Your personal presentation is just as important as the content of your talk. Dress appropriately for the occasion and aim to appear well-groomed and professional especially for a thesis or dissertation defense. Project confidence, remain relaxed, and exhibit a cheerful and enthusiastic demeanor. Your demeanor and appearance can significantly influence how your audience perceives your presentation, contributing to a positive overall impression.

  14. People tend to be more receptive to a speaker's message when they view the speaker as a professional. To convey professionalism to your audience, dress in a manner that aligns with conventional expectations within your profession.

  15. Building a strong rapport with your audience is crucial for an effective presentation. Face the audience directly, maintain good eye contact, and stay alert and responsive to their feedback. This approach not only conveys your attentiveness and respect for your audience but also fosters a connection that can enhance the overall quality of your presentation. Audience engagement and interaction can make your talk more dynamic and impactful.

  16. Your attitude during your presentation plays a significant role in engaging your audience. To keep them interested and attentive, project a cheerful and enthusiastic demeanor. If you appear disinterested or bored with your material, your audience is likely to mirror that sentiment. On the other hand, when you convey excitement about your topic, your enthusiasm can be contagious and captivate your listeners. Being relaxed and confident in your subject matter will convey a thorough understanding to your audience, making them more receptive to your message. Your attitude can have a powerful impact on the overall success of your presentation.

  17. Your task isn't to deliver a formal speech but rather to engage in a conversational interaction with individuals in the audience about a topic you're passionate and knowledgeable about. To establish a personal connection, avoid addressing the projector, screen, notes, or other inanimate objects. Instead, make eye contact and direct your remarks toward individuals in the audience. By engaging with different people and moving around the room, you can ensure that you connect with a variety of participants. Pay close attention to audience feedback: a cupped hand behind the ear may signal a need to speak louder, a head resting on the table could indicate boredom, and someone scratching their head might suggest confusion. Adapt your content and delivery based on this feedback to ensure an interactive and engaging presentation. This approach makes your audience feel that you're talking with them, not at them, and enhances the quality of your talk.

  18. Utilize audio/visual aids, such as electronic media, slides, transparencies, illustrations, and demonstrations, effectively in your presentation. These aids should complement your talk and not divert the audience's attention away from it.

    Ensure that your PowerPoint-like slides and AV aids enhance your presentation without causing distractions. Be mindful that the audience tends to focus on the screen, which is often the brightest object in the room, even when it's blank. To maintain engagement, avoid having a blank screen for more than a second or two.

  19. To ensure a seamless presentation, prepare the room in advance. Close the blinds, adjust the lighting, and position the screen appropriately. Arrive early to set up and test the projector, ensuring that it is in focus and correctly positioned. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of technical hitches and contributes to a smoother and more professional presentation.

  20. The presentation should end with a list of credits (references or bibliography items).

    Conclude your presentation with a bibliography, listing your top three or four most relevant or accessible references. This not only provides valuable resources for those interested in delving deeper into the topic but also encourages engagement and interaction with your audience. After the bibliography, invite questions or feedback from the audience.

  21. Each type of presentation may have an expected time requirement, which can vary from as short as 10 minutes to as long as 120 minutes. Regardless of the allotted time, it's essential to adhere to the time constraints and ensure that your presentation concludes within the allowed time frame. Leave a few minutes at the end to entertain questions and engage in discussions with your audience, fostering interaction and addressing any queries that may arise. This time management approach keeps your presentation organized and respectful of your audience's schedule.

  22. In the case of shorter presentations, like paper or case study reviews, it's generally advisable to keep your talk within a 15-25 minute timeframe. This allows for a few minutes for questions from the audience, as well as some transition time for the next speaker to take the stage. Going under 15 minutes may indicate that you haven't fully utilized the allocated time, potentially leaving your audience with unanswered questions or insufficient coverage of your topic. On the other hand, exceeding the 25-minute mark can be disruptive, as it may result in being cut off by the session moderator, which can be considered impolite and may inconvenience others in the event. Staying within the specified time ensures a well-organized and respectful presentation.

Criteria for evaluation

A presentation will be evaluated on three criteria.

  • Contents (50%): This aspect focuses on the quality of the content itself, which should be solid and accurate. It includes factors like a clear motivation, well-defined objectives, appropriateness for the audience, a sufficient level of technical depth, completeness, and an appropriate balance of abstraction and detail.

  • Delivery (30%): The delivery of the presentation is crucial for engaging the audience. It considers the presenter's posture, confidence, body language, communication clarity, eye contact, vocal projection, and the ability to convey enthusiasm about the topic. It also emphasizes confidence, competence, audience connection, and the capability to handle questions effectively.

  • Visuals (20%): The visual elements of the presentation are assessed for clarity and organization. This category includes evaluating the organization and agenda, consistency in formatting, legibility, the effective use of text and visual aids, the use of keywords and phrases instead of lengthy sentences, and the presence of clear introductions and summaries.

Updates. Minor updates made in October 2023.

TEX by TTH, version 4.14 on 21 Aug 2020, 11:11.