Tips for preparing talks
Your talk for this conference will be 15 minutes long. There will be an
overhead projector in the room, and we encourage you to make use of this
for your talk. The audience for the talks will be fellow undergraduates
who may not have the same background as you do.
We strongly encourage you to give a practice version of
your talk to your advisor and/or your friends before giving the talk at the
In case you have not had practice with giving talks, we've put
together some hints that we hope may help.
Organizing your talk:
In your talk, you should explain both your results and how
your results relate to other mathematical work.
Please bear in mind that the other students may have different backgrounds,
so be careful not to assume too much knowledge on their part.
Fifteen minutes is not much time, so you will need to be very organized
if your talk is to be interesting and comprehensible. One thing that can
help you with this is to make your talk flexible. For example, you can
break your talk up into pieces, so that some parts can be easily omitted
if you go more slowly than you expect and begin to run out of time.
A time-honored piece of advice for public-speaking is, "Tell them what you're
going to say, then say it, then tell them what you said." It may sound repetitive,
but it really works! One possible way to do this may be to prepare a
slide with an outline of your talk. You can then use it at the start and/or the
end of your talk.
Nuts and bolts of preparing transparencies:
Each slide should have only one main point. Ideally, you should be able to give a title
to the slide. A slide should have one inch margins and contain roughly 7 to 12 lines
with large (half inch high) letters. The slides should not be a copy of your
paper; in fact, you do not even need to write full sentences in order to
get your point across!
Nuts and bolts of giving the talk:
First of all, speak loudly enough to be heard
and slowly enough to give your audience time to
understand what you're saying. Each time you put
a new transparency on the projector, look at it
on the screen to be sure that it's all visible. Also, while
you're talking, don't block the light from the
And, since we can't say it enough, be sure to practice
the talk before giving it!
If you'd like more advice, here are some places
to look for guidelines on preparing and giving talks:
for presenting mathematical papers, from the American Mathematical
- Chapter 9 of the "Handbook of Writing for the Mathematical Sciences", by
Nicholas J. Higham.
- "How to talk mathematics", by Paul R. Halmos, published in the Notices of
the American Mathematical Society, vol. 21 (1974), pp 155-158.
Page written by A. Donsig and S. Hermiller.