TCS 22 Conference Presentation Guidelines
General Speaker Tips
- As a courtesy to your audience and the other speakers, stay on time.
- Acknowledge the moderator when he or she gives you the time warnings.
- When presenting, one key thing to remember is that you are there to tell a story about your work, a story that you know better than the audience.
- You want your audience to focus on listening to you and not on reading your presentation slides. Therefore, don't read from your slides or talk to the screen. Use PowerPoint to reinforce your message and not as a crutch. Keep yourself center stage and keep PowerPoint as background.
- Do not read from notes or a script. It is a good idea to have notes on hand, but use them sparingly.
- Sometimes, international presenters for whom English is not their first language include all the text they will say on their slides. This is not necessary. If you are worried about the audience understanding your English, consider handing out notes for your presentation.
- Get to your main point right away. Don't get bogged down in providing background or explaining methodology and then run out of time before you get to the main idea. If people are interested in hearing more about background or methods, for instance, they will ask.
- When asked questions, answer them directly and keep your response short so additional questions can be asked. If the room is large, or there is poor sound quality, make sure the audience hears the question by repeating it before responding.
- Be animated in your speaking and modulate your voice.
- Make eye contact with your audience.
- Use stories and anecdotes to illustrate your points.
- Avoid the use of lingo and acronyms.
- Use graphics and photographs as opposed to text. Most people are visual learners. Moreover, this will help the attention on you and on your presentation slides.
- Don't read your slides or talk to the screen. Use PowerPoint to reinforce your message and not as a crutch. Use PowerPoint as a background instead, and keep yourself center stage.
- Practice your presentation for both timing and content. Practice on your own in front of a mirror or with someone who can provide you feedback. Also consider audio-recording your talk to get a better idea of how you "sound" and to catch superfluous words so you can adjust your talk accordingly.
- Turn off your cell phone before presenting (even seasoned presenters sometimes forget to do this).
- Arrive in the speaker room before the session begins, so you have time to test the remote, if one will be used to advance slides.
- Plan to bring business cards, so people can follow up with you.
- Above all, enjoy yourself! Your enthusiasm for your topic will be contagious.
- As a rule of thumb, assume one slide per minute of your presentation (although this can vary depending on the presentation).
- If you have to apologize for a slide ("bad picture," "can't read it," "too complicated," etc.), don't use it.
- Your PowerPoint slides should provide only key words or images around which you tell your story. When proofreading your presentation, delete unnecessary words, i.e., extraneous words or ones that do not keep the focus on your topic.
- Avoid slides with long lists and a lot of text. Remember, slides are there simply to reinforce your message.
- A good rule of thumb is to have no more than three to four bullets on a slide and no more than eight words per line.
- Limit each slide to one major concept or idea.
- Use font sizes that are at least 18-point, but 24-point font is ideal.
- Avoid complex graphs or tables on a slide. It will be very difficult for the audience to learn anything from them. Instead, pull out the major point of the graph or table and show just that. If you must show the entire graph or table, however, consider making hard copies as handouts.
- Use high-contrast colors such as white on dark blue, blue on white, etc. Keep use of brightly colored font, particularly red, to a minimum. They distract the audience, and their focus will be directed towards your PowerPoint slide and away from you.
- Keep special effects (e.g., bullet points flying in) to a minimum as well, so they do not distract from your presentation. For example, have all content appear in the same manner, as opposed using several different animations.
- Make sure your presentation is not set on "automatic timing" (meaning slides forward at equal intervals), unless you are prepared for this.
- Have someone else proofread your slides to avoid typos.
TCS acknowledges the assistance of Jan Kucklick of NOAA and former TCS Board of Director Laurie Jodice in developing these guidelines. A portion of these guidelines was adapted from the Coastal Zone Conference presentation guidelines.