Tutorial 16: giving good talks (in four parts)

July 12, 2013

As the conference season heaves into view again, I thought it was worth gathering all four parts of the old Tutorial 16 (“giving good talks”) into one place, so it’s easy to link to. So here they are:

  • Part 1: Planning: finding a narrative
    • Make us care about your project.
    • Tell us a story.
    • You won’t be able to talk about everything you’ve done this year.
    • Omit much that is relevant.
    • Pick a single narrative.
    • Ruthlessly prune.
    • [You want to end up with] a structure that begins at the beginning, tells a single coherent story from beginning to end, and then stops.
  • Part 2: The slides: presenting your information to be understood
    • Make yourself understood.
    • The slides for a conference talk are science, not art.
    • Don’t “frame” your content.
    • Whatever you’re showing us, let us see it.
    • Use as little text as possible.
    • Use big fonts.
    • Use high contrast between the text and background.
    • No vertical writing.
    • Avoid elaborate fonts.
    • Pick a single font.
    • Stick to standard fonts.
    • You might want to avoid Ariel.
    • Do not use MS Comic Sans Serif.
    • Use a consistent colour palette.
    • Avoid putting important information at the bottom.
    • Avoid hatching.
    • Skip the fancy slide transitions.
    • Draw highlighting marks on your slides.
    • Show us specimens!
  • Part 3: Rehearsal: honing the story and how it’s told
    • Fit into the time.
    • Become fluent in delivery.
    • Maintain flow and momentum.
    • Decide what to cut
    • Get feedback
  • Part 4: Delivery: telling the story
    • Speak up!
    • Slow down!
    • Don’t panic!


Addendum: Give a talk that holds attention!


5 Responses to “Tutorial 16: giving good talks (in four parts)”

  1. “You might want to avoid Ariel”

    Why? Because of this: http://pic.jpgdump.com/8850.jpg

    (sorry, couldn’t help it)

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Har! Of course I meant Arial, but I’ll let the typo stand now it’s been commented on.

  3. […] [See also: Tutorial 16: giving good talks (in four parts)] […]

  4. […] and there are things you can do to improve your chances. Be aggressively curious. Write. Publish. Give good talks (and give lots of talks so you can become good at it). Broaden your skill set – if […]

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