How to present your seminars/project work

Rushikesh K. Joshi
Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT Bombay
Sept 27, 2001

Understanding of the concept by the presenter is a prerequisite

We will call a presentation 'good' when it effectively communicates the chosen concept. So first and foremost, you must understand well the concept that you want to present. Then
comes communication.

A good presentation does not happen by fluke. It has to be a deliberate effort.

It's not going to be as easy as hooking up a few transparencies before the day of the seminar
and walk away with an 'excellent' remark on the next day. You must attempt to satisfy the
listener. A presentation is like a song, and it is you who is to compose it and sing it in
perfect tune. (If you know the subject very well, you can also craft it on-the-fly.)

Good understanding of the problem does not automatically mean good presentation.

Unfortunately it is true because to be able to present well, you not only have to
understand your concept well, but also have to understand the listener.

Same concept can be presented in many ways

Once you understand the mechanics of the group of your listeners, it allows you to choose a presentation path which unfolds your concept incrementally and gracefully.
You need to present the same concept in different ways to different groups of listeners.

A presentation is not merely going over your thesis chapters.

Firstly it is important to come out of routine dry presentation styles which typically result
when the material is lifted hurriedly from your reports and ordered as it appears in those documents without much thought. I am not saying that it will never make a good presentation. What I am saying is that it does not by default result in a great presentation, perhaps it is most likely to be so.

You just cannot present every section that you have written and every figure that you have drawn so painstakingly in your thesis. Don't you try that!

You have usually 20 minutes to half an hour for your presentation. Don't have too many slides. Presentation is not merely reading your slides one by one. You have to blow a character into them. You could consider jumping straight into an example situation with an 'interesting' slide and motivate the audience for your problem. Why don't you consider keeping away that 'Overview' slide which mechanically lists out the titles of all your remaining slides by presenting this 'interesting' slide immediately after your title slide and then reveal your plan?

Presentation requires extra efforts which come with a reward for you

And what's the reward? The extra work that you put in for the presentation rewards you in the form of a renewed understanding about your own work. Sometimes it could be quite amazing! This factor becomes suddenly important when you have somehow been able to
meet that 5:30 pm deadline for submission of three copies of your completed report! Once this deadline has been met, you get a few more days before you walk into the presentation room. Use them! Work on the presentation and enjoy its results. Consider them for your
remaining stages.

Things that you could try

Synthesize. What have you done? Why have you done it? Construct good examples. Construct good figures. Omit unnecessary details but don't forget to bring out the complexities of your work and most importantly, your contribution. Relax in your chair and execute your presentation plan in your mind. Try a demo in front of friends, try it in front of your advisor, receive suggestions. Attend friends' presentations, the live ones. Learn from them the haves and the have-nots. Make to presentations given by experts. Observe them speaking and effectively conveying their ideas.

Finally, there is no one best presentation style. You can be as original as the last man judged to be the best presenter. Good Presentation is like a musical composition behind which lies a profound understanding of notes personified. And it starts gracefully, develops gracefully reaching a point of pinnacle and ends gracefully leaving on the mind of the listener what a philosopher friend told me once, a total effect. It's an art worth cultivating.

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