1. Remember that the audience can't remember or even comprehend many numbers or items on a list. Try focussing on just a few, explaining them in a sentence or two. Remind people what a current ratio is, for example, and compare it year to year for your company, rather than giving the current ratio, the debt-equity ratio, the depreciation, etc. in a long list.

2. Try not to say ``Um''. It's okay to have silences instead. The silences seem much longer to the speaker than to the audience. It can be useful to write ``Don't say Um!!!'' on a note card and look at that just before you start talking.

3. For a short talk, notes or outlines often do more harm than good (certainly for a 5-minute talk). They stop the speaker from staying in touch with his audience, because he is tempted to look at the notes instead. If you do have notes, consider using just (1) a few headings, so you can remember what comes next, and (2) quotations or numbers that are hard to memorize. Remember, too, that if you have a team, your teammates can prompt you (and can even hold up signs at the back of the room, behind the audience!) Give a friend an outline of what you are going to say, and that friend can help you out if you get stuck. You can say,``My next point is... Well, Jim, what was my next point going to be? '' and get a prompt.

4. Use your handout to communicate to your audience. What would they benefit from seeing? Almost never would they like to see an outline of your talk, but they might like to see some facts, or a picture, or a graph, or your main point. You definitely want to have your name, email or phone number, the title of your talk, and the date on your handout.

5. For some people, it helps to think of giving a speech as being like telling a story. In telling a story, you don't need to memorize, and you don't need notes--- you just have to know the story pretty well yourself, practice telling it to a couple of people, and then it's easy.

6. Try to look at the audience, not at your feet, your notes, or the ceiling. This will keep the audience interested in you, and when eventually you learn to give a talk without being too nervous, it will allow you to respond to audience mood.

7. For some people (but not eveybody), it is a good idea to keep your feet firmly planted, as if you have nailed your shoes to the floor (chewing gum might help). That will keep you from slouching, swaying, or crossing your legs. Other people do better with a more mobile style of speaking, though, and you have to decide this for yourself.

8. If you are using Powerpoint, beware of the following two problems.

       A. Don't just print up copies of all your overhead slides in miniature and make that your handout. Pick only selected facts.

       B. Look at your audience and not at the screen. Your audience will often be looking at the screen, which will draw your eyes to it, but resist the temptation.

      9. Budget your time. Prepare in advance for what to do if the talk goes faster or slower than you expect. What can you skip if you are short of time? If you have extra time, do you want to finish early, or is there some discussion you'd like to extend or some extra point you could add?


1. You will have 15-20 minutes for your presentation and questions. Do allow a couple of minutes at the end for questions. Also allow questions as the talk proceeds, though there haven't been many in my past G492 classes. If nobody in the class asks questions at the end, the instructor will.

2. You have a lot of flexibility in how you give your talk. You can use Powerpoint, overheads, your own laptop, the classroom computer, the blackboard, or no graphics at all. The talk should be related to your G492 project, but it will not present your paper exactly, since you haven't finished it yet and it would contain too much information for a short talk. Here are four possible angles:

      A. Explain one idea from your paper.

      B. Present a published paper that is relevant to your paper, making the connection to your own topic.

      C. Explain what you are trying to do in your paper and ask for advice.

      D. Talk about the background to your paper-- the industry setting or the policy history, for example. (This is straightforward, but can be hard to make interesting.)

3. Give everybody a one-page handout. Think about what handout would be useful for someone listening to your talk. Make sure you have a title, date, and your name and contact information (an email address would be fine).

4. If you use Powerpoint, do not use more than 8 slides. Avoid using Powerpoint simply to show an outline of your talk.

5. After each talk, each member of the audience will write a few comments on it. If you are in the audience, write up a few comments, put your name on it, and give it to the presenter at the end of class (not right away-- that would create too much confusion). A couple of lines of writing will do, but write as much as you like. If you can't think of anything else, just say which part of the talk you found most interesting or least interesting.

I want the comments to be signed because I do want the audience to be polite and helpful.

6. I will take notes during your talk and send comments and grades to you within a week or two.

7. You may skip up to 2 of the sessions in this part of the course. I won't even recommend skipping none-- it will be useful for you to come to some of them, but there are diminishing returns. I do recommend that you not skip the first two--- save some skips for the end of the course, when you get busy or in case you get sick.


1. Sequentiality-- as an audience problem. Powerpoint presentations follow a rigid sequence of one slide after another. Unlike when using a whiteboard or blackboard, the audience cannot see past visual aids, so they can't go back to look at things they didn't understand or didn't realize would be important later.

2. Sequentiality-- as a presenter problem. It often is a good idea to refer back to things you said earlier in your talk. This is still possible with Powerpoint, but the style often leads the presenter to think and talk purely sequentially.

3. Bullet lists without logic. Beware of just listing items relevant to your topic without connecting or explaining them. This danger becomes all the greater if you just write words or phrases rather than sentences.

4. Non-data ink. Often, much of a powerpoint slide's content is the template, the organization name, bullets, and cutesy pictures. Watch out lest this clutter replace real information or distract from it. Ask whether each item is doing any real work. It is silly, for example, to have a bullet when there is only one point on a slide. In fact, one might wonder if bullets are ever useful-- don't people know a new line is starting anyway?

5. Too many bells and whistles. Don't use a different transition style between each slide or a sound effect for each slide (or maybe for any slide). By now these are well-known tricks, which do not impress anyone.

6. Useless graphics. Normally, a picture, table, or text handout has *more* information on it than the words actually spoken by the presenter. That makes sense because we can comprehend more quickly by looking than by listening and in looking we are very selective-- instead of looking equally at every part of a picture, we focus on the important part. Powerpoint often reverses that, because the slide has less information content than what the speaker says. This is fine on occasion-- even if you are just listing topics-- but you should realize that the slides by themselves are then practically useless, leading to our next point.

7. Powerpoint "reports" are useless. Do not just staple together powerpoint slides and think that can replace a real report. Such pseudo-reports are "physically thick and intellectually thin".