Good Talks

Posted by Patrick Lam on Wednesday, June 8, 2016

In my Static Analysis for Software Engineering graduate course, each student is expected to present 2 papers to the class; Software Engineering undergrads also give talks as part of their Capstone Design Project. Here are some recommendations on how to give a good paper presentation.

  • Avoid bullets. When appropriate, diagrams are way better than bullet points for explaining concepts. Just because PowerPoint (or clone) makes it easy to write bullet points doesn’t mean that you should use bullet points.
  • Go concrete, not abstract. In fact, if you can explain the main idea of a paper with an example, focus on the example first and then summarize the key ideas. (This works better with concepts, not experimental results.)
  • Be choosy. You don’t need to present the whole paper. Just present the most interesting ideas. There’s no need to be exhaustive. The paper contains everything, after all. You’re just going over the highlights.
  • Think about charts. Try to make charts that tell a story and choose the charting technology that best supports that. (See Edward Tufte’s books.)

Also check out the Lessig style of giving talks.