What makes a good presentation

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I'm not really talking powerpoint here, but the actual presentation style.

For me its anything that is easy to follow, even for a layman, and is witty/humourous, perhaps with a few funky pics or animations. But am I a simpleton?? I often worry that if I present in this way I will come across 'thick' like I don't really understand the big words I should be using.

What are your thoughts oh great members of postgraduateforum?


Well Sneaks, for me a good presentation is a presentation that I can follow. That it is simple, without big words. And with a presenter that is "one of us" and not someone "superior"....


Simplicity is the key.  I love 'ingesting' new info when it is in nice, manageable chunks - humans like that sort of thing. When it is dumbed down and simple, i don't ever feel the presenter is showing that they are really thick, i feel good that i am learning something and i am able to keep up.

Plus, bucket loads of confidence and an award winning smile help  :-)

Avatar for sneaks

what's your stance on pictures or clip art (if they are not entirely necessary)? I'm not sure whether to put one in my current presentation


Photos - definatley

Simplified cartoons/outline drawings - definately

Clip art - context and picture dependent. Cartoons that are too cartoony (e.g. (robin) thanks mods) are absolutely fine in my book, but only if used in moderation.

there's a risk of overdoing it with clip art, but this isn't a problem for photos and ouline drawings, for me.


Photos and original (not necessarily done by you but unusual) images are great - bog standard (microsoft clipart bloke with ? on his head for the any questions slide) bit naff and turn me off - I'd rather no images than those.

To be fair though I do have the advantage of observtion fieldwork in cool places in my research so for a research seminar I am doing in November I have over 2400 of photos taken on my recent research trip to include. I've tried to find images that illustrate the points I am making. I also have scanned archive stuff from the 1930s as well which I am pleased with. I'm also including an anotated map.

I learnt a difficult lesson on colour schemes recently. At PhD student day I had lovely slides in shades of pink which looked fab on my computer screen but were dreadful in a poorly lit (not dark enough) lecture theatre. :-( So now if in doubt I go for (boring but legible) black on white.


I think easy to follow is very important especially if the audience will have people from slightly different fields. If you can explain things well in simple terms I think this comes accross as knowledgable rather than think - there's nothing worse than someone who clearly understands their research but can't articulate it so that anyone else can understand it!

Other than that think it's easier to think of what makes a bad speaker than what makes a good one!
my pet hates are:
Having bullet points and then simply reading them off the slide
Saying erm every other word! The odd erm is ok but I've been to talks where all I could focus on or remember afterwards were all the erms!
Too much jargon and abbrviations that either aren't explained or there's so many of them you can't remember which was which
Turning back to the audience to read off the screne
Fiddling with hair/pen/pointer - too off putting
Reading word for word off a sheet

As for pictures personally I like them and maybe even think the more the merrier! I quite like having them fly in and fly out but I know a lot of people hate this!

Avatar for sneaks

well i have no pictures :-( but I do have 2 graphs! :-) and its black on white as I'm using the university ppt template.

I don't think I 'erm', but have had to spend a lot of time trying NOT to start every sentence with 'so...'


In my opinion the key of success for any presentation is the contact / interaction with the audience.

If you know who you audience is, adapt your style in such a way that it fits with the audience, get eye contact, joke with them and make that people feel free to ask questions etc., then it is a winner.

Easier said than done, though!

Avatar for sneaks

I feel more confident now. I've recently seen a lot of presentations by colleagues/other PhDs and they all seem SO serious and DULL, I wasn't sure if I was just a bit thick, or maybe come across a bit cheery, but simple lol, or whether it was the right approach.


I'd echo the dislike of reading off the screen but I do appreciate that it is difficult for people presenting in a language that is not their first one.

I'd make sure that any pictures or animations are relevant and not just a distraction.

I don't mind the images moving in but I hate it when there is a different screen transition on every page (and I would go for one of the more "boring" ones rather than one of the psycadelic ones - oh and I'm sure you wouldn't do what my 9 year old daughter wants to do which is a wacky fonts in wacky colours)


======= Date Modified 20 Sep 2010 18:52:47 =======
Hi Sneaks,

I saw a really nice simple presentation last week...  first slide = title, second slide  = what I'm going to cover, in his case he had put simply.. past, present and future.

then he had one theoretical issue or participant quote or model on about 5 main body slides.

He talked through them saying in terms of past - why his research / subject was important...

In terms of present - what he had just done and why. 

and then future.. . its implications, where he was going next or what else was emerging that was relevant.  

he then finished with a " tell em what you've told em slide.  "

nice and neat it was ... it was helped by the fact that he was nice and neat too  ;-)

in fact it was his relaxed manner that was most obvious... he knew his stuff, his story, well enough not to have a script.. he had a nice jokey / personal comment at the beginning and finished by saying he'd welcome any comments or questions.   that simplicity takes practice i think.  its a lack of confidence when people try to make it swish ( and i include me in that )

What's your plan ? will you let us know how you get on ?  all the best,  break a leg and all that. Chuff


Hi Sneaks,

I'm in the exact same position myself at the moment. I'm giving a paper on Wednesday and have decided for the first time to just keep it really simple and try and inject a bit of humour. It's a bit of a double-edged sword for me because the topic I'm discussing is something which people are likely to see as 'lowbrow' and 'fun' anyway- so I'm planning to use that to my advantage while hopefully showing them that actually it's more complex and interesting than might first appear.
When I think back over all the papers I've seen at conferences, the only ones I can really remember were ones which followed the format everyone has suggested. NOBODY can follow the really weighty, theoretical ones unless they already know loads about the subject. So I think that if you actually want to communicate your research, rather than just look clever, you have to make it possible for your audience to follow your argument.
It's entirely possible that people will just laugh at me, given the very serious tone of the conference, but I'lllet you know how it goes :-)


Quote From sneaks:

I have had to spend a lot of time trying NOT to start every sentence with 'so...'

OMG Sneaks I could have written this, except that it filters into my writing too.And worse - almost always it is preceded by an OK and succeeded by a THEN, so the end result is

Ok, So, Then...



This video is good, if a little repetitive: