Why work on presenting?
I think that success in any career depends in part on how well you
communicate your ideas and persuade other people. Below are some
exercises to do in preparation for a presentation, which help increase
your impact and improve your
presenting skills. This will make your ideas more
clear and persuasive--and help you succeed.
"Ask yourself: If I had only sixty seconds on the stage, what would I absolutely have to say to get my message across?"
advice from a Berkeley CS prof
Public-Speaking Lessons from TED Talks
Rosling on effective data presentation
job talk advice by Eugene Lerman
Speaking tips organized in categories by
William Steele that includes this great
but little-known tip about graphs on slides
to give a good colloquium" by John McCarthy
to talk Mathematics" by Paul Halmos
booklet on slide design for scientific talks
are not all evil"--both by Jean-luc Doumont.
to give a good 20-minute math talk" by William Ross
1. Read "How to give a good colloquium" by John McCarthy.
2. Attend a talk: e.g., the colloquium
the bottom of this page) at 4pm on Thursday, Sept 25 in AH 245. Write a few sentences describing a)
one slide or section of the talk that you thought worked well, and b)
how you would improve another part, especially with the McCarthy
reading in mind.
HW2: Read "How
to talk Mathematics" by Paul Halmos, which includes advice on
short talks, and start to prepare (importantly, before working on slides!) by writing a paragraph for each
of the following three prompts.
1. What is your topic and your main message? You should be able to say
it in about 60 seconds, an "elevator speech."
2. Think about your audience: e.g., people in STEM, graduate students,
general mathematicians, etc. Write a paragraph
addressing some or all of the following questions: Why should they care? Why are you the right person to present this topic? What do you
want them to do after your presentation? What do you want them to
take away from your presentation? How can you make the benefits to
your audience clear?
3. Specifics: What kinds of audiovisual aids will you use?
Chalkboard, powerpoint, beamer, poster? When will you take questions:
during or after? Which two or three definitions or key ideas will you
introduce to your audience? What is a good example (think n=2) that
illustrates the main point of your presentation? Can you think of a
story to tell that's related to your topic?
HW3: Slide revision. Example.
1. Read this downloadable
booklet on slide design for scientific talks
are not all evil," both by Jean-luc Doumont.
2. Attend a talk and ask the speaker for the slides or slide
code. Or you can work from the slides for my talk on the
mean-field Heisenberg model with beamer tex code available
3. Pick two slides, a) one that
you think needs improvement, and b) one that you really like.
Revise both slides a) and b) according to the principles that you've learned,
drawing or texing up your suggested changes. This may include finding
or drawing a picture to illustrate the main point, or making the
wording more efficient. Improve the better slide in at least two small ways.
HW4: If you're doing a
poster, here are links with
poster advice and a
If you're doing a talk, read
to give a good 20-minute math talk" by William Ross.
1. You will give your "elevator speech" to some people. This
will be your main message in 60 seconds, much like an abstract. You may get some questions,
and you can also poll your audience to see how
many people know a particular concept. P.S. A version of your elevator speech is a
good way to end your talk.
2. Make rough draft slides or poster. "Rough" means the whole presentation
should be done at least in outline (but remember no outline slide,
like Ross says),
and at least four slides/sections (or in the case of a chalkboard
talk, one board) should be in complete form. You'll want a good title
too, so include your thoughts on that.
HW5: Prepare a complete second draft or slides or poster, and practice your presentation for someone a couple days before your
talk, or walk them through your poster in 5-10 minutes. Specific
feedback you should ask for includes:
a) timing information (minutes and seconds recorded at
each new slide/section)
b) a few questions that are natural for the
audience to ask
c) a few suggestions for improvement.
TIPS: You can build flexibility into the timing of your talk with a
slide near the end to skip if
necessary. Echoing the talk advice above, aim to use only 95% of
the time given to you. Dressing up (e.g., business casual or business formal,
according to your intended career) is recommended
because it affects how your audience treats you.
"It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good