Presentation Guidelines

Table of Contents

  1. Background
  2. Goal of your presentaion
  3. Contents
    1. Industry Presentation
  4. Format
  5. Interaction
    1. Body Language
  6. Revisit your Goal
  7. Relax


The purpose of these guidelines is to make a better conference for all attendees. Since you are reading these guidelines you are probably going to present a paper during the conference. You, of course, would like to have as much impact as possible for your ideas and your paper, and these guidelines are here to help you. Remember that your primary means of communicating your paper and your ideas are through your presentation.

Please engage with your session chair as early as possible so that the session chair can be more helpful to you (the presenter) and the audience. The chair will work with you, the presenters, to ensure that your presentation quality is there, that you feel good, that you are prepared to deliver the best presentation that you can. The session chairs are responsible for helping you to succeed with your presentation and they keep an eye on the time (if you don’t), they facilitate questions and answer sessions, and simply do their best to ensure that everything goes well.

Please do your best to forward your presentation to your session chair as early as possible so that they can review the material and provide feedback if necessary.

Goal of your presentaion

As stated, your goal is probably that you wish people to remember your ideas and your paper. You may also wish feedback and to start new collaborations.

The audience’s goal is slightly different: they are listening to you to get inspired, and to learn something. There is of course also a common ground. You can assume that the audience want to learn something about your topic – just don’t assume that they want to learn everything.

Think about what your main goal with the presentation is. What do you hope to achieve with your presentation? What do you want to give the audience? What do you hope to get from them? This will guide how you construct the presentation.


The actual contents of the presentation might be structured as follows, if it is a research presentation:

Generic Research Outline
Self-Introduction (skip if done by session chair)
Value Proposition (Teaser)
Background and Motivation
Research Question / Problem
Methodology: Strengths and Limitations
Future Work

The emphasis you place on these different sections depends on your goals and what you have done. Some general guidelines are:

  • Briefly present yourself. Why are you the right person to talk about this topic? This might include a quick word on past work. You may skip this slide if the Session Chair did such a great job that all has been said already.
  • Does your work highlight a new problem? If so, you would spend more time on motivations and background.
  • Does your work use an original and particular methodology? Then tell us about the methodology, otherwise present only a brief summary. We already know your methodology is OK since your paper has been accepted.
  • The results and conclusions sections are the most important part of your presentation. Here you should briefly go through the results (they can after all be found in your paper), and focus on what your results mean. What makes them interesting? Can they be applied in practice?

Think of your presentation as a story that you tell in order to reach your (and the audience’s) goals. A traditional story consists of an inciting incident, a conflict, and a resolution. In research this is the context of the problem, your research question(s), and your research results. Consider using characters to help you think through your story. The character’s journey is the mental journey that your audience must take to follow your work.

A story board is a great preparation tool. Consider developing a story board before you create any of your slides. Think through the timeline of your story (your work), sketch some visuals that illustrate your thinking and remember that these are sketches for you, you don’t have to be an artist to use this technique to achieve great results.

Make sure your story reflects the title of your paper: this is what attracted the audience in the first place!

Industry Presentation

Industry presentations have the same deliverables as research papers: what are you bringing to the audience?

Obviously, you can present your material in any way that you choose but please be responsible about this. There should be a good reason for you to have a different structure and your audience does have some expectations of you. Remember that you are presenting a narrative so choose accordingly.

A generic outline (which may or may not be applicable to your circumstance) include:

Generic Industry Outline
Company Introduction (skip if done by session chair)
Value Proposition (Teaser)
Background and Motivation
Experience Report
Implications for Research
Call for Collaboration / New Research Agenda Items


Remember the 10 – 20 – 30 rule (scaling as necessary)

  • 10 slides (maximum), including title and closing slides, for a presentation that lasts
  • 20 minutes. Remember that the audience tends to sit toward the back so always use at least
  • 30 point type so that everyone can read your slide.

Another rule is that the smallest typeface should be half of the age of the oldest person in the room. Or, a normally sighted person should be able to read the slide from the very back of the room.

Another heuristic: Use less than 30 words per slide. However, 0 to 5 words and a quality visual will usually impact your audience better than 30 words.

To be as safe as possible: have your slide in Powerpoint and PDF formats, stored in the cloud and on a USB key. You can even generate a self-contained PPS.

Many older data projectors (more than 2-3 years old) have trouble interfacing to Apple products so you may be forced to present on a Windows machine even if you are an Apple product user – please try to test your presentations for Windows compatibility.

Use a consistent template for your entire presentation. Inconsistent slide formatting can feel “wrong” to the audience so use inconsistent formatting with caution.

Avoid acronyms and gratuitous images.


It is always useful to know who is in the audience. If the session chair did not characterize your audience for you, a simple question at the beginning of your presentation might help you to understand who is in the audience and to connect with them.

Keep your audience awake and interested. For example,

  • ask questions (and actually use the answers to build up your argument),
  • use instant polls (show of hands), or
  • vary your presentation style (for example by switching to whiteboard from your slides)

When asking questions to the audience, recognize the value of your audience. Ask about what they think of some polemic (potentially contentious) position, potentially by doing a poll, or by asking an open-ended question. Even if nobody answers, this technique helps you to engage with the audience.

If someone answers with something unexpected, or disagrees with you, you can ask the audience for their opinion: who agrees with the opposing position to determine the degree of opposition to your assertion(s). Ask why they disagree, then we suggest that you try to recognize the valuable contributions of both points of view. Consider making an offer to discuss the matter further after the presentation if you can’t close the debate during the presentation. And, if appropriate, remember that you can always refer the audience to your paper.

You can ask your audience whether they have specific knowledge about certain areas touched upon by your work. You can increase engagement by polling your audience to see whether they think your research hypothesis was proven or disproven by your work.

Remember that you can always poll your audience on anything that you would really would like to know about – after all, they are all RE researchers or practitioners just like you! Just be careful to manage your time, everyone has to have their turn to present.

Balance your presentation and spend more time on the sections where you want more discussions. For example, do you want to discuss your conclusions with the audience? Then spend more time on the conclusions and invite people to react, and to share. Do you have great plans for the future? Do you want to invite others to join you? Tell us how to be a part of your future work.

Body Language

Your body language matters. Prepare well, rehearse-rehearse-rehearse, then relax and be ready for the unexpected to occur. Even if a mistake happens your audience will understand – they have been there too! Errors are OK – people can enjoy them too!

If you are comfortable and having fun then your audience will have fun along with you.

Do your best to fill the room with your voice. You know how frustrating it is when you can’t hear or understand the speaker. If you have a quiet voice, consider asking someone you know for help on learning how to project your voice out to the audience. The techniques may seem weird at first but stage actors have been using them for a very long time.

Revisit your Goal

Go through your presentation again in light of your goals.

  • Do you need words on this slide?
  • Do you need this slide at all?
  • Do you need a slideshow at all?
  • Can you say it more simply? Or in a way that will engage people more?
  • Do you have to use a slideshow ?

Slides are expected in our conferences, but in some disciplines conference presentations are done without slides. No slides means the audience will concentrate on you, and you will concentrate on the audience.

Be creative, but respectful. Can you deliver your message with a poem, a song, a role-play, a video, big Post-its, big Posters? Something that will make your presentation more memorable without distracting from delivering your message? Feel free to try out something new but make sure that you have tried it at home first to ensure that your audience still engages with you. And if you are in doubt, do not hesitate to contact your session chair and discuss your idea beforehand.


Everyone really is there to hear what you have to say and to learn from you. Don’t forget to relax and enjoy yourself.

Good Luck!

Original material collected by David Callele and Martin Mahaux.