Up a level
Short CV
Old News


Previous Next

How do I present my work?

powerpoint presentations are more or less the norm in professional presentations, although sometimes academics consciously choose for a spoken lecture. Really professional presentations go beyond powertpoint, to including film or multi-media effects. Still, powerpoint offers a lot of options and you will be expected to know how to work with it in most professional contexts (athough there are important alternatives also).

Some general rules for powerpoint presentations:

  1. Know your audience
    Try to look at your presentation through the eyes of your audience. What do they already know? What is the main point you want to get accross? What do they expect from you?
  2. Keep it simple
    Some people get carried away by the possibilities: the 'zoom in', 'appear' and all the other ways to make text appear. Stick to one such technique, or at most two if it makes sense to do so.
  3. Seven bullet points max
    It's a simple rule of thumb. If you have more than seven bullets, then consider a separate slide.
  4. Limit your text
    The bullets should express the core of your argument and ideally should be readable by themselves, but should NOT be your complete text. If there is too much text, people will stop reading and rely on your voice only. If you simply read what is on the slide, your audience will stop paying attention to what you say and simply read. One line per bullet is good, two can be ok, but if you have more than three lines per bullet, then you should consider reduction to the core or splitting yoru text.
  5. "I know you cannot read this but..."
    We are all tempted at some point to present that overview table, the spreadsheet that has all the numbers. You know you should not, but in thise case maybe...
    I have hardly ever seen it work and it only produces chuckles in the audience.
    Don't do it. Use a hand-out of your table that people can write on, or take home to study in detail.
  6. Use functional pictures
    Some people have auditive memories, some visual, some have to do things to remember them (e.g. write them down). Try to combine all media to communicate in an optimal way. Not everybody will like a picture that illustrates what you mean, but some people in your audience will remember that more than anything else.
    However, avoid pictures that only decorate without adding to the contents. These will distract from your message.
  7. Mind the attention dip
    Half way through your presentation, your audience's attention is lowest. Here you will need somethin extra. Wake them up with a change of pace: a piece of film, sound, a question, a quizz, a diagram, text if you relied on pictures, pictures if you relied on text.
  8. Readability
    Make sure your slides are readable first and foremost. Don't be tempted by fancy background pictures if they make your slides harder to read. Font size depends very much on beamer conditions, but try not to go below 20. Use a simple font.
  9. Open and close
    Start by presenting yourself (and maybe your team), perhaps start with an example, but then announce what you plan to do.This manages the expectation of your audience and keeps the attention span.
    Close with conclusions or an invitation for comments. Don't forget that last slide!
  10. Move and engage
    Avoid static presentations. Force yourself to move, for example by drawing a picture on a board or flip-over, or pointing out things on the projection. Engage your audience, ask them questions, look at them (and worst of all: not the projection screen).


Double-presentations, with two speakers, can be very lively and very engaging. However, they can also go completely wrong: you get confused about who will say what, whose turn it is, or end up in a whispered discussion. If you want to present with two (or even more) people, you will need to come extra-prepared. Rehearse, several times if need be, and make sure you know your part. These are high risk presentations, but if done well, they are also rewarding.