During the course of research programs, you may attend a range of conferences and you will be required to deliver departmental presentations. These presentations take a number of different forms such as 20 minute conference presentations, conference round tables where you may only speak for 5-10 minutes, or 30-45 minute seminars outlining your research to your supervisors and colleagues. This page identifies the importance of the key message, before the subsequent pages take you through structuring your presentation, preparing aids and finally the delivery.

Know your audience

If you're doing a conference or departmental presentation, your audience will probably have vastly different levels of familiarity with your field. Some may already know the theories and concepts your research examines, whereas others may not. When developing a presentation, keep this in mind. How can you explain your research to a diverse audience?

Some tips include:

  • explain theories, concepts, and other complex data in simple terms
  • give clear, concise and accessible examples to illustrate your points
  • avoid over-using theoretical jargon, and
  • outline your key message and the structure of your talk at the beginning, so that your audience can more easily understand your key points.

Your key message

In the same way that your thesis or journal article should have a clear argument, a good presentation needs a clear message. This key message provides the focus for your presentation and gives it the structure. Having a clear message helps you to communicate more effectively and takes the focus away from merely delivering information.

What will be the scope of your talk?

The scope of your talk will be largely determined by the amount of time you have for the presentation. Don't be trapped into thinking about the amount of information you wish to convey rather than how much you can deliver in the allocated time. In a presentation of twenty minutes, given that you need to introduce and conclude, and explain your ideas clearly to a diverse audience, you will usually be able to cover between two and four points.

To determine the scope, first identify the key message of the talk. The sophistication and depth of the message is likely to be influenced by the presentation time.

Then identify the main points that best support this message. The number of points will definitely be determined by your time.

You can also check out the Thesis Whisperer's advice on presentations, for instance tips on how to plan the presentation and how to prepare for your first conference. The following pages examine how to structure, design and deliver your presentation.

Structure >>