Information for Oral Presenters

Be considerate of other speakers and the audience. Build a 12 minute talk and leave 3 minutes for questions and answers. Session chairs will hold you to the allotted time! A timekeeper sitting in front of the stage will indicate your remaining time with a "traffic light"

  • Green light = GO (0 - 12 minutes)
  • Yellow light = 3 minutes left
  • Red light = STOP

Technical Notes:
Source files | PowerPoint is designed to display pictures and text generated within the program or inserted from other sources. If the source is any video file, or a sound file larger than 5KB, the original file must be available on the computer where the presentation is to be run. If in doubt, bring source files along. Embedded charts, graphs, and object-oriented graphic files can translate in odd ways on a different computer system. Please insert charts or graphics as bitmap files ( .gif, .jpg,.tif). If you embed charts and object graphics in your presentation, bring those source files along too.

Digital images Try to make your images <100 dpi to keep file sizes small and to help your presentation run faster. To bring an image into your presentation, choose Insert  >  Picture from File. Don’t copy/paste or drag/drop. It may look fine on your computer, but it will not display properly when you transfer the presentation to another computer.

Media clipsPowerPoint allows for playback of a wide variety of media. Unfortunately Apple® and Microsoft® disagree on appropriate media formats, so only a few formats are cross-platform.

  • Windows codec recommendations: Windows media 9 codecs for video, Cinepak®, MPEG-1, or Indeo® 5.1 AVI
  • Mac codec recommendations: QuickTime® 6 MPEG4 for Video, Cinepack®, or MPEG-1

For movies created on the Mac and played back on Windows, choose Cinepak®, MPEG-1. Or, if you have access to a Windows machine, use QuickTime® Pro (in Windows) to re-encode the movie to an Indeo® 5.1 AVI which will provide a high quality transfer.

AnimationAnimated builds, moves, highlights and transitions can help visually reinforce your message. However, these are often overused and can detract from your the message, so please use sparingly. Different versions of PowerPoint have different sets of animation features that are not always backwards compatible, it is best to use as little animation as possible to keep your audience focused on your content, and minimize problems in portability.

Tips for Speakers

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare your presentation!

Following are excerpts from a February 2010 article by Liz Danzico called "Training the Butterflies." Danzico talked with Scott Berkun, trainer and author of many books on making presentations -- the latest of which is Confessions of a Public Speaker.

Building your presentation
"Jumping head-first into PowerPoint or Keynote sets you up to have too many slides and too little thinking. A presentation should be centered on the key things you will say and how you will say them. Slides should help you say those things, but can almost never say them for you. Count MINUTES, not SLIDES. Thirty slides could take an hour, or ten minutes."

  • Discuss the same material as reported in your abstract. Address the essential points and leave the details for publication.
  • Give an opening statement to acquaint the audience with your study.
  • Use active words and short sentences. Words should reinforce your visual material. Do NOT read your slides to your audience!
  • Speak slowly and clearly into the microphone and toward the audience. If you turn your head away from the microphone people will not hear you. If you need to see what is being shown on the screen, have pictures or copies at the podium.
  • Devote each graphic to ONE fact, idea, or finding. Each graphic should remain on the screen at least 20 seconds. Illustrate major points or trends, not detailed data. Do not show long or complicated formulas or equations -- save those for your paper.
  • Edit, edit, edit. And edit again. People came to hear you speak. They didn't come to struggle to read the 15 bullet points you've crammed onto one slide. Use the absolute minimum number of words in the title, subtitle, and captions. Standard abbreviations are acceptable.

Can the audience read your slides?

  • It is often helpful to step 8-10 feet back from your computer screen and make sure that your slides are readable. Stay away from small fonts which will be illegible from the back of the room.
  • Critically examine every graphic and view each under adverse light conditions before presenting at a meeting.
  • The presentation system includes basic system fonts. To be safe, use standard system fonts such as Arial. Please pay special attention to scientific notation, as this is often written using a non-standard font.
  • Tables: To keep your information readable and the eyes of your audience from glazing over, do not use more than 3-4 columns and 6-8 rows. Make table gridlines as thin as possible to minimize distraction. Whenever possible, present data using bar charts or graphs instead of tables.
  • Graphs: Do not use more than 2 curves on a diagram; you could show up to 4, but only if they are well separated. Label each curve -- do not use symbols and a legend. Do not show data points unless scatter is important.

TIP: Use the Slide Master capability of PowerPoint to standardize the look of your presentation. A consistent look to your slides helps viewers follow your talk -- if they have to work too hard, they'll tune you out. Basing the style of each slide on a Master Slide makes it super easy to change styles across the whole presentation. You won’t have to edit each slide individually, saving you a ton of time.

For more information
Thanks to ProjectionNet and the American Geophysical Union for advice on giving talks and taming software.

“If presentations are not of the highest caliber in both content and delivery, communication is flawed and science is neither properly served nor facilitated.”
from Scientifically Speaking: Tips for Preparing and Delivering Scientific Talks Using Visual AidsScientifically Speaking is published by The Oceanography Society and provides advice and observations on preparing and delivering a scientific talk. The booklet is available as a series of web pages, a PDF file (2.7MB), or by request.