How To Give a Talk

  1. Avoid eye contact; mumble; show no enthusiasm; speak to the board; speak at 300 words per minute; keep the pitch of your voice constant to within 2%; lose your place; repeat yourself; use nonstandard terminology; do not clearly state the problem that is being addressed.
  2. If you are using a laptop make sure you do not know how to switch the video output. Don’t bother to check the batteries are charged. Don’t switch off the screensaver as this will provide an interesting diversion of the audience. If you do not have a screensaver, make sure you have at least 3 slides per minute. Flick back and forth between slides preferably at 2Hz or greater speed – this makes your talk more “dynamic”. If the laptop fails, spend the remainder of your allotted time attempting to fix it rather than presenting.
  3. If you feel nervous write your entire talk down and read it or learn it by heart.
  4. Use a laser pointer to amplify any nervous shaking to try and encourage sympathy.
  5. Jokes are a useful thing in a talk; make sure you test them on your friends. Of course, if your friends find them funny, the rest of the audience will too. If they audience does not laugh at your first joke it means the audience did not hear it; proceed on to the remaining 17 but speak more loudly.
  6. Use the mouse pointer instead of a laser pointer but do not turn off  “advance on mouse click option”.
  7. Cram as many equations as possible on one slide; PowerPoint is of great help here. Do not feel constrained to keep notation consistent. that is only required for a paper, not a talk. Since you are explaining the equations, the audience will be able to follow, even if you use the same symbol to mean two or more things in the one equation. If they can’t, it is their fault for being stupid; not yours.
  8. Photocopy your paper onto slides and simply project that.
  9. Use as many colours as you can and make sure that you have dark red text on a blue background for the smallest size fonts to aid illegibility.
  10. The best sort of technical talk has only equations, no text nor graphs. If you do have text, make sure it is ungrammatical.
  11. If you ignore the previous advice and do have graphs, ensure that the axes are unlabelled. If there is any labelling, don’t waste precious space in overly large font; 3 point is usually adequate.
  12. Take account of the fact that you speak a little faster when nervous. If your practice talk takes 30 minutes, presume it will easily fit into the allocated 10. [If not, simply speed up].
  13. Ignore session chair timing info; session chairs are usually very inaccurate time keepers.
  14. If you are scheduled to give a talk at 7:30am, do not turn up until 7:29am; the audience will think you are a newbie and too keen.
  15. If the session chair asks you to stop; argue aggressively with him and proceed anyway. Very useful if using a microphone which is in your possession.
  16. Make sure you keep your eye on the projector screen; projectors often fail and it’s imperative you are the first to notice.
  17. Don’t switch on the wireless microphone; say that its OK as you are an experienced projector of your voice.