Your main goal in presenting this seminar is to COMMUNICATE your topic to an audience of MIXED BACKGROUNDS AND INTERESTS.




A presentation concentrates on teaching something to the audience.  A good presentation means that the audience understood the message.  The first rule is to place yourself in the mind of your audience.  The second rule is to provide the minimum amount of information to the audience; this helps overcome the temptation to fill presentations with details meant to impress the audience.  So, make sure to:


·      Try not to cover too many ideas, stick instead to a major theme.

·      Focus on what the audience needs to know about the subject and not everything you could tell them. 

·      Don’t give too many experimental details unless the method is the main point of the talk.

·      For each set of data, explain the significance of the findings, don’t just show it.

·      Don’t assume that the audience will know what you mean. 

·      Make transitions from one topic to another logical and smooth: “now I’d like to tell you…”

·      Unlike a written report, the audience must be able to immediately grasp the information.  So, keep it simple.

·      Use repetition as a tool to help the audience remember important points.




Remember that your audience will be scientifically literate but will not understand terms, jargon, abbreviations, and methods used in your sub-area of food science (e.g. food biology, food chemistry, food engineering).  When planning your seminar, put yourself in their shoes.  Explain all terms and concepts that are important for understanding your topic and will be used throughout your presentation. 


Ask yourself:     What do they know now?

What else do they want to know?

What do they need to know in order to understand my presentation?




Make your title descriptive, succinct, informative and interesting.




A visual aid is something your audience can see that aids you in delivering your message.  Always look and talk to the audience, NOT to the visual aid or slideDo not read directly from the slides; you will lose eye contact with the audience.  Animation is good and beneficial as long as it does not get too distracting.


Font, color, background


Decide what font, colors, graphics, background design and layout to use for your entire presentation.  While you can use variation, strive for consistency: titles should be the same color, bullets should be the same color and shape, etc.  Visual aids can be created using almost any color, but there should be enough contrast between foreground and background elements and too many colors can distract from the message.  If you want to use graduated backgrounds, keep them subtle and smooth.  Sometimes different projectors display colors differently, so make sure to check it out on the big screen before the actual presentation. 


Size and number of elements


A limited number of slide elements, suitable graphics, and large text make reading easier.  Remember than sometimes, “Less is more”.  The smallest text on the slide should be large enough to be seen from the back of the auditorium.  Titles should be in a 36-48 point font and slide text should be in a 26-36 point font).  Also, keep similar text the same size from one slide to the next. 


Use of white space


Blank areas on a slide help the reader and avoid the appearance of overcrowding.  Slides should have ample margins.  Try to keep your slides neat and uncluttered.




Use short and simple phrases and NOT sentences or paragraphs to limit the amount of information on the slide.  Visuals should have:


·      One main point

·      One thought per line

·      No more than 5-7 words per line

·      No more than 5-7 lines per visual


Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase lettering.  Using all capital letters is harder to read.  Avoid commas, semicolons, or periods in visuals. Instead, use bullets or numbers to separate and group ideas. 




You need to give credit to the work of others.  Don’t forget to include references on your visuals at the bottom in small font.


Graphs and tables


Graphs and tables are the best way to summarize large quantities of raw data.  


·      Simplify the data

·      Show only the essential information

·      Be consistent in style and terminology, font, color, style, etc.

·      Data elements should be the thickest and the brightest colors.  Frames, grid lines, axis lines, and error bars should be lighter in color and weight.

·      X and Y-axis lines should end near the last data point

·      Include figure legends


Proofread your slides yourself, and then have someone proofread them for you!!




Developing an outline is important for a logical flow of ideas as well as serving as a checklist for items that appear in the slides.

·      Introduction and background information (why is the work important? what related work exists?)

·      Objectives of research

·      Explanation of methods (what is unique about the presenter’s approach?)

·      Results

·      Discussion and conclusion (did the results meet the objectives?)

·      Relevance or significance, implications of findings (what is the overall scope of the work?)

·      Future work (what happens next?)




The introduction serves to provide a focus (statement of main idea), a reason to listen (significance of the main idea), and an orientation (division of the presentation).  Identify the problem and focus on the scientific observations that led to your research topic.  Include some background information.




Choose the story you want to tell then present the data or experiments that are essential to your story.  Be selective; don’t overwhelm the audience with volumes of data that may just confuse them.  This is NOT your thesis defense.  Present your results in an order that supports and maintains the flow of your story and that facilitates understanding, even if that is not the order you used in the laboratory.  Ideally, summarize after you finish each point to wrap up what you’ve said and connect it to the next point.  Repetition makes the idea stick in the audience’s head. Never use a slide unless you give the audience time to understand its content.  Presenting complex diagrams, equations or tables “for show” is not useful.  Only present material you can take the time to explain and define.




Take this time to repeat and reemphasize the most important conclusions.  Show the significance of your work.

Tell them exactly what YOU want them to walk away remembering.  Thank your audience for their attention and wait for them to applaud.  After they applaud, you can ask if anyone has any questions.




Well-done visuals and graphics are important in expressing ideas, and offering results that escape words.  However, it is the oral communication that gives depth and understanding to the visuals. 




Practice is very important for a successful presentation.  It allows the speaker to spot flaws and enables smoother transition from section to section.  Rehearse with an audience of friends or with your advisor and your research group; it is the best way to get feedback and constructive criticism.  You might first develop a script for your presentation.  If you do use notes or cards during the seminar, try not to read them.  Know your talk well enough that you can speak directly to your audience most of the time and periodically refer to your notes to keep on track.  Practice, but not so much that your presentation sounds over-rehearsed!


Dress for success, present professionally


Look and act professionally.  Develop a confident (but not arrogant) stage presence.  Look at your audience and make frequent eye contact with them.  This conveys an air of confidence and knowledge about the subject matter. Strive to avoid audible pauses (um, ah, you know, ok, etc.) as well as other nervous habits (rocking in place) or repetitive hand motions. 


Advance preparation can reduce nervousness


The internal nervousness most speakers feel during presentations is usually not seen externally.  It is a good idea to visit the auditorium and practice before your seminar.  The familiarity with the environment can be comforting.  Also, you can become familiar with having the slides behind you and looking out into the audience as you speak.  You can practice projecting your voice, as well as using the microphone and laser pointer.  This is also a good chance to check whether your slides are legible from a distance.


Speak slowly and clearly


During an oral presentation, the speaker is in charge of speed control.  Your sentences should be short and main points should be repeated to aid memory and understanding.  Your voice should be clear and your pace should vary according to the audience’s familiarity or unfamiliarity with the subject.  Show engagement by varying your voice pitch and tone.  Timed practice sessions will tell you if you need to add or cut material.  Never try to include more information by speaking faster


Be enthusiastic


Enthusiasm is contagious.  If you show excitement for the topic, this will help the audience to listen attentively. 


Handling questions


During practice sessions, ask colleagues to pose what they feel might be typical questions.  Keep your answers short and to the point.  Preparing extra slides for anticipated questions is also a good practice.  Never get into a power struggle with someone in the audience.  Appropriate responses might be: “we have not performed those experiments yet”, or “that is a very interesting idea; we’ll have to give that some thought”.  If an answer will take an unreasonable period of time, say that you would be happy to discuss it after the session.