Presentation Guidelines

80-150 The Nature of Reason

The talk:

  1. The presentation should last 15-20 minutes (without discussion/question time).
  2. It should have an introductory section, in which you make clear what the talk will be about, what motivates the talk, why someone should be curious about it, and in what relation the topic stands to material discussed in class.
  3. In the middle section, explain all crucial terms clearly and try to make subtle ideas simple.
  4. Summarize the important ideas in the concluding section, emphasizing what the audience should take away from the talk.

Advice for your preparation:

A good talk is like a good dance performance: it has to be well choreographed and rehearsed. The end result should look very natural and effortless, but the way to achieve this is through hard work.

For the choreography: prepare an outline of what you want to say,  write down what information you want to convey, maybe use index cards to help your memory. Know what the audience should be able to remember after the talk, and emphasize these. If you introduce new concepts, explain them using examples that you think everybody is familiar with (or ask first if everybody is familiar with them). Prepare more than one way of explaining difficult material. Think of pictures or diagram you could use to explain concepts or relations between concepts.

For the rehearsal: you might think that rehearsing a talk is a waste of time and that you prefer to be spontaneous. It is in fact true that some people have the talent to give talks and speeches without having to prepare them at all. But, be aware, most of us do not have that gift And then, why should giving a talk be different than driving a car, dancing, playing football, writing essays, playing guitar etc.? To become proficient or even an expert in all of these activities you have to practice, practice, and again practice. Thus, after you have prepared your talk, practice it. First, without any audience. This allows you to try out certain phrases, but also to get a feeling for the timing. Bad time management is a clear sign of lack of preparation. Later, rehearse before your friends. Ask them for their feedback-the more the better. Use the feedback to improve future performances.


To be able to prepare a good talk, one must know how to evaluate talks of others. Use the following checklist for your evaluations (rating each question with Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor):
  1. Did it have a clear introduction and conclusion section?
  2. Was the talk well motivated?
  3. Did the speaker make connections to related issues?
  4. Were crucial concepts introduced clearly?
  5. Were examples used when difficult concepts were explained?
  6. Was the time managed wisely?
  7. Was the speaker enthusiastic about the subject?
  8. Did the speaker make eye contact during the talk?
© Dirk Schlimm 8/2/01.