Presentation Advice

So.. the summer term has passed and I'm wrapping things up and one of the final things I want to get out of my notebooks into this blog are some notes I took for feedback during my Hauptseminar in my maths studies.

Everybody had to do a 60 minutes presentation and the audience was asked to take notes about the presentation style to give feedback later (in addition to paying attention to the presentations).

There were 4 blackboards in the room and a beamer.

Here are my notes:

  • 4 pages are the most you can do in 60 minutes (ie write down on the blackboard)
  • really think about your audience and what you want them to take away and focus on that in your presentation
  • practice your presentation a few times before your big day
  • if you use formal mathematical symbolism to express an idea, make sure all symbols and variables are properly defined/explained (for it to make sense!)
  • never tell people to "only ask questions at the end because it would disturb your presentation"!
  • focus on important concepts and ideas
  • motivate definitions and formulas - prefer an algorithmic view on things
  • try to use images and graphs to visualize ideas
  • if you can't avoid complex definitions and deductions, use a handout
  • make sure the handout doesn't contain superfluous information which will only confuse readers
  • don't just copy your handout onto the blackboard, if you hand it out at the beginning of the presentation (it's okay, of course, if you do it afterwards)
  • never clean all blackboards at the same time
  • avoid long breaks in your presentation
  • keep on talking all the time, even while cleaning the blackboard to keep people engaged
  • if the blackboards are in front of each other, always start writing on the one on the back
  • if you can use PowerPoint, try to use it for complex/boring formulas or for visualizations, which are impossible to draw by hand
  • on the other hand, make sure, you don't put things into PowerPoint, that would be better written out slowly on the blackboard
  • always listen to criticism politely, but don't take notes of it, while you're in front of your audience
  • don't degrade yourself by apologizing exaggeratedly for mishaps
  • put the sources of referenced material onto the slide the material is used in
  • don't waste time on complicated 'examples' that are too detailed to be of any use for the audience
  • don't let technicalities obscure examples - stick to the important parts of them
  • it's nice if the handout doesn't exactly match the presentation
  • always conclude your presentation with a summary of the main points of your talk
  • try to build intuition for your topic in your audience instead of explaining difficult proofs no one will remember or care for later anyway
  • make sure you have chosen the right priorities for your presentation and trim it down as much as possible

This was it :-)