Garland Grit --- The personal side of giving talks
- In an oral presentation, remember you are also presenting
- Avoiding mechanical errors.
- Body Language. Nervous mannerisms not only call attention
to themselves and distract the audience from your words, but they also
spread a nervous contagion in the audience. In moments of stress, take
a deep breath, grip the sides of the podium, stand firmly on both feet
and push ahead with your talk.
- Personal Appearance. Play it safe; dress neatly and
appropriately. Others will form an impression of you based in part on your
- Visual Aids. Make printing large enough to be seen in the
back. Use dark color marking pens; black is always in good taste.
Assume control of the room; find light switch, focus control on
viewgraph projector, and pointer before your talk begins. Don't stand in front
of the viewgraph projector.
- Interactions with Your Audience. Maintain eye contact with
friendly faces about the room, turning from one to another. They will
respond positively, affirming points you have made and increasing your
- Speak Clearly. Speak up \-- loudly, clearly and at a reasonable
speed. Use a microphone if one is available.
- Stick to Time Limit. Never, ever, speak past your allotted
time. To do so is extremely egotistical. Even if your audience
courteously allows you to continue, they will never forgive your
- Responding to questions. Position
yourself as interested and helpful.
- Let your questioner finish the question. Don't jump into the
middle of question. Use the time to collect your thoughts.
- Be prepared to rephrase the question. Then everyone will
understand what the question is and in a succinct rephrasing
you will make the questioner seem intelligent and perceptive.
- Keep answers short. Try to start with a `yes' or `no' if at all
- Confess your ignorance. If you don't know, admit it graciously,
and thank the questioner for bringing the point to your
attention. Offer to talk later about it.
- Deflect hostile questions. Never argue with a questioner.
No audience likes a public display of belligerence. So if the
questioner attacks, the audience will side with you provided you keep
- Gauging your audience. When faced with an audience with a
range of backgrounds, don't play to the experts. The best
compromise is to devote the first half (or two-thirds) to a careful and
clear introduction to the topic, saving the highly technical material
for the last. Everyone will then respect the speaker as an authority
on the subject who was attuned to the audience and mindful of their
varied needs. Summarize the key points at the end drawing all
pieces of the talk together.
- Deciding level of detail. Weed out extraneous material.
Narrow the scope of your talk to fit the allotted time. Simple is
always better than complicated.
- Making equations effective. Use only those equations that are
absolutely necessary. Don't do any algebra. Focus instead on the
assumptions that lead to the equation, and its relevance to your
topic. Finally, talk through the equation (e.g., ``The energy of
the particle is equal to its mass multiplied by the square of the speed
- Using transparencies. The general rule is that the text
on the transparency should be detailed enough to be self-explanatory
but no more than that clear but concise.
- Practicing your talk. Practice both your delivery what
you say and how you say it and your timing especially your
timing. Say it aloud with your notes and transparencies, preferably in
front of colleagues or friends. Unless you say it aloud you won't
recognize stumbling blocks difficult transitions, hard-to-verbalize
ideas, convoluted reasoning that will trip you up later. Practice
the talk until you can do it comfortably within the time limit.
Your comments and
suggestions are appreciated.
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