College of Natural Science & Mathematics

Suggestions for Your Presentation

In planning your presentation, keep the following ideas in mind:

  • You are the expert. Nobody in the audience knows as much about your project as you do. Therefore, explain your research in enough detail so all will understand what you did, how you did it, and what you learned. Remember that your audience is not as familiar with the subject as you are.
  • It’s all right to be enthusiastic about your research, and it’s OK to share your excitement with your audience. In fact, that makes your presentation more enjoyable. Just make sure your excitement is genuine.

  • Pretend that you are going to be in the audience. What would you find interesting about your presentation? What would be confusing? Whenever possible, avoid jargon or unnecessary terminology. If it is essential to use specialized terms, remember to explain them briefly.

  • Graphs, tables, diagrams and statistical representations are significant to explaining your results. When displaying a graph, take time to orient the audience to the graph—for example, remember to state the variables on both axes of the graph. Explain the meaning of each graph, diagram, or table.
  • Include diagrams or photographs of key aspects of your method.

  • Slide or transparencies should be simple and uncluttered. Use short phrases to emphasize key points. Visuals should make a few simple statements and supplement what you are saying while the visual is on the screen. Make sure the visual is legible from a distance, and that the entire visual will be visible. (On an overhead transparency, the “message area” should fit in a space about 7.5 x 9.5 inches.) Do not overuse color or background graphics. Use colors with high contrast (such as black letters on clear or yellow background).

  • Deliver your presentation at a comfortable pace. Give your audience enough time to understand what you are trying to convey. Display each slide or overhead transparency only when you are ready for your audience to see it, and give the audience time to read it even though you will speak “through” it.

  • Avoid using too many graphics during your presentation, which would require you to quickly flash from one visual to the next. An average of one slide or transparency for every two minutes of presentation time is considered a good balance.

  • Make sure your presentation is logical and easy to follow.

  • It helps to practice your presentation before a non-specialized audience (and to listen to their advice!), in addition to seeking advice from teachers and mentors. Practice will also help you perfect the presentation and timing. Plan to speak for 12-14 minutes, to allow additional time to finish within the allotted 15 minutes.

  • Before answering a question, repeat or paraphrase the question so everyone in the audience can hear it.

  • Dress professionally, but be comfortable. (Jeans and t-shirts are not appropriate.)