How to Give a Good Talk

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					How to Give a Good Talk

   Bonnie Dorr
The speaker approaches the head of the room and sits down at
the table. (You can't see him/her through the heads in front of
you.) S/he begins to read from a paper, speaking in a soft
monotone. (You can hardly hear. Soon you're nodding off.)
Sentences are long, complex, and filled with jargon. The
speaker emphasizes complicated details. (You rapidly lose the
thread of the talk.) With five minutes left in the session, the
speaker suddenly looks at his/her watch. S/he announces -- in
apparent surprise -- that s/he'll have to omit the most
important points because time is running out. S/he shuffles
papers, becoming flustered and confused. (You do too, if you're
still awake.) S/he drones on. Fifteen minutes after the scheduled
end of the talk, the host reminds the speaker to finish for the
third time. The speaker trails off inconclusively and asks for
questions. (Thin, polite applause finally rouses you from
dreamland.)
               [Paul Edwards on “How to give a talk”]
What’s wrong with this picture?
 Talk
  Reading
 Stand
  Sitting
 Diagrams, aids
  No visual graphs
 Large print busy slides
  Small print,
 Move
  No moving about
 Vary pitch
  Monotone
 Speak loudly/clearly
  Mumbling
 Eye contact
  Facing downward
 Focus on main points
  Lost in details
 Finish on overtime
  Running time
 Summarize, conclude
  No conclusion
 Respond to audience
  Ignoring audience
What will I talk about today?
 Central Messages
   – Giving a good talk is important!
   – Don’t annoy your audience!
 Preparation
   – Where are you presenting?
   – Who is your audience?
   – What is your central message?
   – How are your slides put together?
   – How do you answer questions?
 Presentation Types
   – oral exam or thesis defense
   – conference talk
 Summary
Giving a Good Talk:
It’s important!  [Tamara G. Kolda, 2002]


More people will see your talks than will
 read your papers
The audience will form their impressions
 of you based on your talks
Early in career, treat every talk like an
 interview talk
Start as early as you can—no later than 1
 year before your PhD
How might I annoy my
audience?    [David Patterson, circa 1983]


 not be neat (in good order)
 not covet brevity (concise)
 not write large
 not use color
 not illustrate
 not make eye contact
 not skip slides in a long talk
 not practice
Preparation

Know what your surroundings will be like:
 size of room, microphone, equipment, etc.
Know your audience and tune your
 message to that audience
Get to the point—early and often
Organize your slides so that they
 effectively deliver your central message
Answer questions skillfully
Where are you presenting?
Know your surroundings
                   [Patrick Winston on “How to Speak”]


 Look at the hall: you want the place to be
  “comfortably crowded”
 How many people will be there? Nature of talk
  changes with size of audience!
   – 20 people: discussion is possible
   – 50 people: performance is expected
 Find out who has talked before
 Schedule talk for 11am
 Mood: people reading newspapers will make you
  feel bad! (Don’t allow it.)
Who is your audience?
Know your Audience
                                 [Tamara G. Kolda, 2002]


 One of the biggest mistakes speakers make is not
  knowing their audience!
 Will your audience include …
   –   Specialists in your sub-field? In your field?
   –   Researchers in the computer/mathematical sciences
   –   Engineers and scientists?
   –   Faculty and postdoctoral researchers? Graduate
       students? Undergraduates?
Delivering the central message
                                     [Tamara G. Kolda, 2002]

 What did you do? Why is it important?
 What’s the one-sentence summary of your talk that the
  audience should walk away with?
 Tune your message to your audience
   – Symbolic knowledge improves statistical techniques for cross-
     language topic detection and generation of short summaries to
     represent foreign-language news articles
   – Generation of English headlines for foreign news stories is
     enhanced when our algorithms use linguistic knowledge
 Repeat the message over and over again throughout the
  talk
 Keep the content of the talk focused on the central
  message
Slide Organization
                                    [Tamara G. Kolda, 2002]


Sample outline of a research talk:
 Title slide: credit to co-authors and funding agencies
 Up-front “carrot” (attention-getter)
 Outline (unless 10-15 min talk)
 Background material
 What you did
   – new algorithm, theorem, proof, computational paradigm
 Why is it important
   – numerical results
   – contribution
 Summary and future work
Background Material

Minimize background material
At least 2/3 of talk should be original work
Identify those who have done related work
 and spell their names correctly!
 Hint: People love to hear their own names.
Describe motivating applications that will
 later tie into your results
What you did

 Emphasize your simple message repeatedly
 Back it up with details of algorithm and theory
 Use pictures and diagrams as much as possible in
  lieu of wordy explanation
 Keep notation to a minimum and avoid too many
  abbreviations
 Never use equation numbers—repeat the
  equation if necessary
 Illustrate your points via simple examples
Like this …? present an algorithm?
  How do you
Or like this …?
     Finding the largest among five integers
Tables and Figures

Tables
  – Don’t make font too small
  – Use color for emphasis
Figures
  – Be sure axes are clearly labeled
  – Use color to differentiate lines
  – Don’t just copy verbatim out of a conference
    paper!
Why is it important?

Think BIG PICTURE!
Emphasize an application
What makes it a hard problem?
Why should people care?
Summary and Future Work

Repeat what you did
Repeat why it is important
Future work is important for recent PhDs
 because it shows you are thinking beyond
 your thesis problem
Include contact info at the end
  – email, web page
Fielding Questions

 Repeat the question.
 Talk.
 Demonstrate knowledge of standard problem solving.
 Draw a diagram.
 Specify an analogy.
 List the assumptions.
 List the ideas and tools that seem relevant.
 Respect the questioners and their questions
 Inevitably, someone will tell you your work has already
  been done by someone else!
Oral Exam or Thesis Defense
Practice!!!!
 Observe and try to emulate excellent speakers
 Ask in advance what examiners will ask!
 Memorize a few key sentences.
 Get there early and set up!
 Cycle in on what you have done.
 Try to convey a sense of quiet confidence.
Conference talk                        [Mark Hill, 1992]


 Title/author/affiliation (1 slide)
 Forecast (1 slide)
 Outline (1 slide)
 Background
   – Motivation and Problem Statement (1-2 slides)
   – Related Work (0-1 slides)
   – Methods (1 slide)
 Results (4-6 slides)
 Summary (1 slide)
 Future Work (0-1 slides)
 Backup Slides
Academic Interview                 [Mark Hill, 1992]



 Take a 20-minute conference talk.
 Expand the 5 minute intro to 20 minutes
 Do the rest of the conference talk, minus the
  summary and future work.
 Add 10 minutes of deeper stuff from your thesis.
 Do the summary and future work from the
  conference talk in a manner accessible to all.
 Add 10 ten minutes to survey all the other stuff
  you have done (to show your breadth).
 Save 5 minutes for questions (to show that you
  are organized).
Take-Home Messages

 Know your audience
 Create a simple message and repeat it several
  times
 Allow plenty of time to prepare your talk
 Practice!
 Don’t block the slides during the talk
 Speak slowly, clearly
 Don’t run over on time
 Have fun and learn from your mistakes
Thanks goes to …

 http://www.si.umich.edu/~pne/acadtalk.htm
 http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~brd/Teaching/Giving-a-talk/giving-a-talk.html
 http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~brd/Teaching/Giving-a-talk/phw.html
 http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~markhill/conference-talk.html
 http://csmr.ca.sandia.gov/~tgkolda/abstracts/giving-a-talk-snl-2001.html

				
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posted:5/21/2012
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