Good Presentation

The single most effective thing you can to to make your presentation a good one is practice it once beforehand, preferably to a friend, roommate, or teammate who will listen, take notes and offer suggestions afterwards, and time how long you talk (so you know how much to leave out). 

(If you are presenting at a conference, see also Jennifer Widom's tips.) 

Good things — strive for these:

  1. Not too much material for the time available
  2. Clear speech (loud enough, not rushed, clear enunciation)
  3. Voice interest (not monotone, showing your interest and enthusiasm)
  4. Eye contact (looking mostly at audience)
  5. Supporting gestures (appropriate for what you are saying)
  6. Slides that give the most important points of your talk, in phrases (not complete sentences) and any crucial diagrams or figures
  7. Good organization of material, shown in slides and talk
  8. Good knowledge of material, shown in the way you present it


  1. Not too much material for the time available

    There is always the temptation to try and present more material than there is time for.  Rehearse your presentation and time it; leave out material until you can present all of your presentation at a comfortable pace in the time available. 

  2. Clear speech

    Don't rush.  If you feel you are running behind, don't try to talk faster; instead, leave things out.  Speak to the people in the last row. 

  3. Voice interest

    Avoid speaking in a monotone.  Be interested in what you are saying (which means:  come up with interesting things to say, things that are interesting to you).

  4. Eye contact

    Look at individuals if you wish (but not the same person or people all the time).  Or look between people (less distracting to you, everyone in that area thinks you're looking at them).  Or (especially if you are nervous) look just above the last row of people (then everyone thinks you're looking at the people behind them). 

  5. Supporting gestures

    Be natural (if possible), then you will make the right gestures without thinking about it.  If you are too nervous to make natural gestures, then you can gesture toward the screen when you are talking about something that is on the screen, move your hands a bit when you are saying something important, and otherwise keep them behind your back. 

  6. Slides

    Your slides should support what you are saying, rather than duplicate or replace it.  Make an outline of what you want to say, and put the outline on your slides.  Leave off anything that isn't important and interesting.  Keep whatever you say on your slides short.  Most people cover a slide every 2 to 3 minutes, so (for example) a 15-minute presentation should probably have around 5 to 8 slides. 

  7. Good organization
    1. Put similar things together, and summarize them. 
    2. Emphasize the important things, and leave out the unimportant things. 
    3. Talk about basic things first, then later talk about the things that depend on them. 
    4. Begin your talk with a summary of what you are going to say, and an outline of your talk (make an outline slide).
    5. End your talk with a summary of what you have said ("tell them what you are going to say, say it, and tell them what you said"). 
  8. Knowledge of material

    Practice your talk ahead of time.  Run through it at least once in front of someone (your teammates, roommate, friend, someone).

Bad things — avoid these!

  1. Reading your slides
  2. Looking only at the laptop
  3. Looking only at the projection screen (better than at laptop, though)
  4. Slides that have complete paragraphs on them
  5. Slides with too many words on them
  6. Too many slides (most people need at least 2 minutes per slide)
  7. Talking too fast
  8. Appearing nervous
  9. Monotone voice
  10. Talking too long (audience gets antsy and then annoyed when presentations run over the allotted time)
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Thomas A. Alspaugh