Suggestions on How to Make Your Presentation
a Successful One
(This information is summarized by E. Erkut based on documents prepared by
the Transportation Research Board with help from professional presentation
Remember that the presentation can differ from the printed paper and that the
presentation gives the author an opportunity to discuss and emphasize highlights
of the work. It is not possible to cover a paper in its entirety in a
presentation; it is up to you to decide what to emphasize. One goal of the
presentation is to generate sufficient interest in someone that they will read
your paper. It is recommended that you do not read from a text, except where
direct quotes are needed for technical accuracy.
Concentrate on your delivery. Speak clearly and at a pace somewhat slower than
normal conversation. Avoid a monotone. Speak at a volume that can be heard
throughout the room. Face the audience instead of looking at the overheads. Make
eye contact with the members of the audience instead of looking at the walls and
windows; move your eyes around the room. Think of your delivery as a
communication with your audience, rather than a presentation at the audience.
Let your confidence, conviction, and enthusiasm show through. Do not be afraid
to make mistakes, to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, to forget an
important point, to have no answer for a question. Mistakes are unavoidable.
It is suggested that you practice your talk beforehand, keeping track of elapsed
time and recognizing that actual presentations usually take longer than
rehearsals. If your presentation is too long, do not try to compensate by
talking fast. This will annoy the audience and reduce the impact of your
presentation. You should target an 18-minute presentation, leaving about 2
minutes for questions.
Visual aids are a primary contributor to your presentation. An overhead
projector and screen will be available in all sessions. (In addition, a slide
projector, a data projection panel with a PC or a Mac, and a TV with a videotape
player can be provided if requested ahead of time.) It is assumed that most
speakers will use overhead transparencies. Keep in mind that the slide is not
supposed to contain word-for-word what you will say during the presentation. A
maximum of one or two transparencies should be used per minute of presentation.
Use a maximum of 6-7 lines per transparency, edit long sentences to only one
line, and use a maximum of 6-8 words per line. Do not use all-text
transparencies that are nothing more than cues or notes and convey no additional
information to the audience. Transparencies should be simpler than the contents
of a technical report. Round off numbers, abbreviate whenever possible,
substitute symbols for words, and omit footnotes and sources. All information on
the transparencies should be readable, and the letters should be no smaller than
0.5 mm (3/16 inches). Handwritten transparencies are acceptable as long as the
writing is legible and the letters are of sufficient size. If you wish to use
copies of typed pages from a paper or a book, it is recommended that you enlarge
the page. While it is not required to use them, presentation software, such as
PowerPoint and Harvard Graphics, simplify the preparation of overheads
Encourage questions. Be patient and listen to the question without stepping on
the questioners words. Repeat the question if you believe that not everyone in
the audience has heard it. Pause before rushing your answer; make the questioner
feel that the question was important enough for you to think about an answer.
Answer only the question that has been asked, no more and no less. Answer with
eye contact on everyone in the room, not only the one who asked the question.