How to give a technical presentation

Contents

Everything you need to know

Here’s everything you need to know in order to give a good presentation:

  1. know your aim and your audience,

  2. create your presentation to meet your aim (for your audience),

  3. polish, and

  4. present.

Those are simple rules, but could perhaps stand a bit of amplification….

The “takeaway”

Your aim is that your audience will take away an appropriate message from your presentation. So, what’s your message, and how can you ensure that your audience will take it away with them?

Thesis presentation

You’ve slaved over your thesis for a year or three and now you’re standing in the examination room for your defence. Your committee members have read the document and have each formed an opinion about your work and developed a list of questions. Assuming your defence is open, there will be members of the “general public” in the room: faculty, other graduate students, and possibly even family members. They might have a passing familiarity with your work, but probably don’t know it in detail.

Who is your audience and what is your aim?

If you said “the general public” and “to explain my research”, I score you a big fat zero.

In my personal opinion, your principal audience is your committee. In half an hour or so they will be running the meeting and asking the questions. This is the last chance you’ll have to control the discussion. So, you want the committee take away the message that you’ve done good work and you know what you’re talking about.

Conference paper presentation

You’ve slaved over your research, gotten some excellent results, written a nice paper, and had it accepted at a prestigious conference. The conference is attended by a broad spectrum of researchers, some of whom are working directly in your area, and some of whom are working on vaguely-related problems. Your turn comes and you get up to speak.

Who is your audience and what is your aim?

If you said “everyone in the room” and “to explain my research”, a second time I score you a big fat zero.

In my personal opinion (again), your principal audience is those researchers in the audience who happen to be interested in similar problems. You don’t have time to completely cover all the details that were reported in your paper. Instead, you want interested researchers to take away the idea that your paper is interesting enough to read, or at least interesting enough to ask questions about either right after your presentation or in the next break.

Create

Polish

Present

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Presentation advice

Greg Phillips

This web site is not an official publication of the Royal Military College of Canada nor of the Department of National Defence. Ce site web n’est pas une publication officielle du Collége militaire royal du Canada ni du Ministère de la défense nationale.