Presentation Guidelines for CS 97

Next Monday (4/26) we will begin project presentations in CS 97. If you would like to give your presentation in the Sun Lab in order to do computer demos, let me know. Otherwise, I'll just assume that an overhead projector in Sproul 31A will be enough for you. Here is the schedule of presenters:

April 26 (next week) May 3 (following week)
Cathy Sean
Dave Craig
Jon S. Ethan and Alex
Chris and John R. Matt and Roger

You will have 30 minutes for your presentation. If you're doing a joint presentation, plan on 45-60 minutes, since presumably you and your partner will have more to talk about than if you had done a project on your own. For a joint presentation, have one person present the first half, and the other the second half.

Here are a few other DOs and DON'Ts to keep in mind as you plan your talk, all of which could come in handy someday if you ever have to present an academic paper at a conference:

  1. DO augment your talk with some form of visual material, such as overhead projector slides (I'll make sure an overhead projector is available). A well-chosen picture or graph is usually more effective at conveying information than just using words. Color slides can be even more effective, AS LONG AS the color actually conveys useful information. In other words, don't waste your time making slick, colorful, marketing-seminar-type slides just so they'll look more impressive. If you're planning on including a computer demo, it's probably best to do the actual demo at the end of your talk, after the audience has been suitably "primed", so that they'll have a much better understanding of what they're seeing.

  2. DON'T have too many slides. You'll probably end up spending around 3-5 minutes on each slide, which works out to something on the order of 10 slides for a 30 minute talk. 30 minutes may sound like a long time at first, but it's not. You'll find that once you start talking, the time will fly by. It's better to say too little about something and keep going, than to get bogged down in details early on. Your experience will be much more enjoyable if you don't feel like you have to rush through things on account of the time. If you finish early, then you'll have more time for questions, or you can go back and flesh out the details of something you said earlier.

  3. DON'T overload your slides with words. This is probably the most common mistake that people make when giving a presentation. If a slide is covered with words, your audience won't bother trying to read it, especially while you're up there talking at the same time. The same goes for slides with mathematical equations, mathematical proofs, or computer source code. Keep your slides simple and to the point. If you just can't avoid a slide with lots of words/equations/etc., that's probably an indication that you should instead try to spread the ideas across several slides. A corollary of this rule is to use BIG FONTS---the bigger the better. It's extremely annoying to try to read microscopic-sized text on a slide, especially from far away.

  4. DO give clear, concise examples of what you're talking about---throughout your talk. If you don't, you'll probably end up losing your audience. They'll tune you out fast and get bored, and miss out on all of the really interesting things you're trying to tell them.

  5. DON'T just get up there and wing it. Think about what you want to say ahead of time, and write out a general outline of the structure of your talk, and of the points you want to cover. A good breakdown for a 30-minute talk is the following:

  6. DO leave a few minutes for questions at the end of your talk, if possible. Since the final versions of the projects are not due until May 14, some of your work may still be in progress. If you are presenting unfinished work, you may want to use the question period as a chance to ask others in the class for suggestions and feedback on those aspects of the project that you presented.

  7. And finally... keep in mind that, after all, it's just a class presentation among friends. You're not doing a job interview or a live TV broadcast to millions of people around the world, so you don't need to feel overly nervous. I'm sure you'll have a friendly audience. So do a good job, and I'll see you on Monday. I'm really looking forward to hearing about your projects!