Sunday, February 3, 2008

Tips for Paper Presentation - Writing and Presenting Technical Papers

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First, organize your talk:

1. Identify the important ideas
Your work (or the work you are presenting) likely has many details but only one or two main ideas; structure your talk around these main ideas.

2. Create a Talk Outline
Your talk should be organized in a top-down manner.
You should have the following main sections in your talk:
* Introduction, The Big Picture: what, why, how, and why we should care (motivation). Be sure to include:
o a statement of the problem being solved (what)
o motivation and putting the work in context (why and why should we care)
o a high-level view of the solution (how)
* Details of solution
* Results demonstrating/proving your solution
* Critic of Work (possibly compare to related work)
* Conclusions & Future Directions for this work

The talk should be organized as the important ideas first, the details second, conclusions last. Each section of your talk should be organized in a similar manor: high-level important points first, details second, summarize high-level points last.

Next, Design your slides

1. Slide Organization Your slides should be organized like an outline--a few main points, with sub points under each one. Your slides are a guide for your talk not a word-for-word copy of your talk. List specific points that you want to talk about as sub-topics of each main topic. If there are particular details that you want to discuss, outline them on the slide and keep written notes for you to refer to in your talk rather than writing all the details on the slide.

2. Summarize Main Points You should have a summary slide of the main ideas at the end.
If applicable, Include a list of open questions and/or future directions of your work.

3. It is okay to waste space Add just enough prose prose to present the main points and highlight the main parts of each point. Use phrases rather than complete sentences and use large fonts. You can use acronyms and abbreviations sparingly, however you should say the complete name when you talk about about them. For example, if you abbreviate processes to procs on a slide, say "processes" when you talk about the point not "procs". Similarly, if your create an acronym for your super fast multi-cast implementation, SFMC, and refer to the old slow multi-cast implementation as OSMC, then say "our super fast multi-cast" and "the old slow multi-cast" rather than "SFMC" and "OSMC". The exception is for well-known acronyms such as PVM, MPI, API, JVM, etc.

4. A picture is worth a thousand words Use figures and graphs to explain implementation and results. It is very hard to describe a system implementation without having a picture of the components of the system.

5. Number of Slides As a general rule, it should take 2-3 minutes to talk through the material on one slide, so for a 30 minute talk you should have about 13 slides.

If there are too many ideas in your work to present completely in 30 minutes, then pick one or two (the most interesting/important parts) that you will discuss in detail, and present the other parts at a higher level. Also, you can create back-up slides for specific details that you don't plan to talk about, but may get questions about.

Next, preparing your presentation

1. Provide a talk road-map Tell the audience where you are going with your talk.
* Give audience a road-map of your talk at the beginning by using outline slides
Immediately after the title slide, put up an outline slide and tell the audience the main organization of your talk. Another alternative is to first have a few slides motivating the paper's general topic, then put up an outline slide giving the audience a road-map of your talk.
* It should be clear when you start a new high-level part of your talk
Use good transitions from one slide to the next, and from one main topic to the next..."We just talked about the implementation of foo now we will look at how well foo performs for synthetic and real workloads.
You may want to use the outline slide at other points in your talk to provide a visual transition between parts of your talk.

2. Repeat Your Point There is a rule that says you have to tell your audience something three times before they really hear it:
1. Tell them what you are going to say.
2. Say it.
3. Summarize what you said.

This is particularly important for figures and graphs. For example:
1. This graph show how the A algorithm performs better than the B and C algorithms as the number of nodes increase
2. The X axis is number of nodes, the Y axis is execution time in seconds The red curve shows the execution time of A as the number of nodes increases The blue curve shows ...
3. Thus you can see that as the number of nodes increases above N, the A algorithm performs better. This is because of increased message traffic in algorithms B and C as shown on the next slide...

4. Talk to the Audience Don't read your slide off the screen, nor directly off the projector. It is okay to stop for a second and refer to your notes if you need to.

5. Practice Give a practice run-through of your talk in front of an audience of at least one other student. Stand in a room for 30 minutes (or the duration of your talk) and talk through all your slides (out loud). This should be a timed dress rehearsal (don't stop and fix slides as you go and don't let your audience ask questions or suggest fixes until your practice talk is over; you want to force yourself to talk through your entire talk).

You should assume that there will be about 5-10 minutes worth of questions during or after your talk. If your talk is too long, you should cut out some material to get it to fit into the time slot (your audience will not mind if your talk ends 5 minutes early, but they sure will mind if it goes 5 minutes over). Even if it is not too long, you should think about slides that you can skip during your talk if it ends up going too long.

As a practice talk audience member, you should jot down notes of places in the talk where you have suggestions for improvements, or where something seems unclear. After the presenter is done with his/her practice talk, you should talk through the things you wrote down. It is also good to give the presenter some practice answering audience questions. If you can think of some questions like this, it is good to ask these to the presenter at the end of his/her talk.

6. Nervousness: How to fight back
* A well organized, practiced talk will almost always go well. If you draw a blank, then looking at your slides will help you get back on track.
* Taking a deep breath will clam you down. One trick is to try to remember to take a deep breath between each slide.
* Slow down. Take a few seconds to think about a question that is being asked before you answer it. It is okay to pause for a few seconds between points and between slides; a second or two of silence between points is noticeable only to you, but if you are talking a mile a minute everyone will notice.
* Bring notes. if you are afraid that you will forget a point or will forget your elegant transition between slides 11 and 12, write these down on a piece of paper and bring it with you. However, you don't want to have a verbatim copy of your talk, instead write down key phrases that you want to remember to say.
* Give at least one practice talk to an audience.
* Be prepared to answer questions. You don't have to know the answer to every question, however you should be prepared to answer questions and able to answer most questions about your work. Before you give the talk, think about what questions you are likely to get, and how you would answer them. You may want to have back-up slides ready for answering certain questions.
* It is okay to say "I don't know" or better yet "gee, I hadn't thought about that, but one possible approach would be to..." or to refer to your notes to answer questions.



gauthami said...

thanks a lot.. for ur tips and was really cool......

ramsheena said...

I have no words 2 xpress my gratititude & happiness...
it was really helping..

raman said...

great work .....thanx a lot

sebaan said...

thank was really helpful

sai kiran said...

thanks.....tese tips help me alot

sai kiran said...

these tips help me a lot.....

vishal said...


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