Giving a talk

Giving a good talk is not an easy task, but with time and practice you get to learn how to communicate (hopefully I’ve learned too!!). There are a number of places on the web with advices to give a good talk. But I like Paul N. Edwards’s short manual about how to give an academic talk. My experience as audience in many talks tell me that the most important things are (quoting Paul’s manual):

  1. Presentation are not journal articles. Think of a talk as a series of 5 minutes presentations (one per transparency) with a general guideline.
  2. Each transparency is an idea unit. And the title of the transparency must be the summary of the idea
  3. Move, don’t stand still.
  4. Make eye contact, specially in the introduction, the key point of your talk and in the end of the talk.
  5. Focus on main points, skip technical details unless you are asked to give them.
  6. Do not put a lot of graphs per transparency. A graph is a lot of cryptic information for the audience and you must fully explain it, so more than a graph per transparency is too much for the audience.
  7. Do not write in the transparency what you are going to say. Transparencies are not to be read, but to complement your speak.
  8. Plan for disaster: have your presentation in different formats and in a usb thumb drive, a CD-ROM just in case.


Professor at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and MIT Medialab. Working on Complex Systems, Social Networks and Urban Science.