Useful Tips for Talks

Everybody has a certain style of talk they prefer. And this may even be different from what style of talk they benefit most, or what style of talk they actually give themselves. As a result, it is hard to come up with good and general rules that are applicable always — both to how one should give a talk, and how one should evaluate others' talks. Even so, there are some tips that might help you:

  • Keep your audience in mind. What do they expect? What do you expect? At NZMASP, the audience is other students, often from other fields.
  • Prepare the talk with enough time to spare. But don’t overdo this or you may forget the detailed thoughts you put into the preparation by the time you give the talk...
  • Time your talk. Both in length and density: You don’t want it rushed, too fluffy, or too dense.
  • Practice is often good. Especially, if you are new to giving scientific talks, try practicing in front of friends or colleagues, and listen to their feedback. Again, don’t overdo it — if the talk is entirely learnt by heart word for word it has a tendency to lose the connection between speaker and audience. If you do not have a good idea of how long your talk will be, practice can help to see if you are overtime or too short, and your test audience might be able to tell you where you can easily cut corners or expand.
  • Slides: It is easy to overfill slides. It is easy to overly rely on the slides for the content. It is easy to distract the audience with fancy animations and transitions from the actual content. Be aware of these pitfalls.
  • Think about the presentation. This includes things like body language, voice, content, and much more. Occasionally, you may even want to contemplate if slides or blackboard presentation is preferable. We will have at least one flipchart or whiteboard, but they are unlikely to be large enough for everyone to see, so for NZMASP slides are advisable.
    • Laser pointers: Use them sparingly. It is easy to distract people by waving them around.
    • Try to make sure that media work on the equipment present in the room you give your presentation.
    • Especially in front of a non-expert audience, it is a good idea to think in terms of "less is more".
    • Try to keep contact with your audience by looking at them.
None of this is set in stone and you can easily encounter situations where you might even want to consciously violate some of them. But try to be nice to your audience, so a first approximation as a guideline probably is the Golden Rule. We are at NZMASP to learn and have fun, both as speakers and as audience.