Before reading these set of comments, please know that I am not a seasoned public speaker with years of experience. Heck! I am not even a beginner.

*The comments below are derived from experiences of other people, good articles and from my own personal experiences. Please feel free to disagree or improve.


Content

  • Do not dump a large amount of content on a single slide. Cluttered slides look bad. Use figures, a few bullet points or lines, legible font.
  • For short talks (10-15 min), no more than 10-12 slides. The general rule of thumb could be to have 1-2 min per slide. Prefer to sacrifice content over clarity in tight situations.

Body Language

  • Get a feedback of your on-stage body language from your friends. Minimize any distracting gestures. For example, racing impatiently across the stage as if it’s on fire.
  • Presentation is a two way communication with the audience. To do this, make eye-contact with the audience and keep them engaged. Don’t bury yourself in your slides.
  • Prefer to walk across the stage (or available area) once in a while to ensure connectivity with the whole audience.

Preparation

  • It is wise to outline a rough transcript of what you are going to say and memorize some key sentences that introduce critical slides.
  • Practice. And not just a little practice, but many, many hours of it.

The Talk

  • Prefer not to begin with, "The title of my talk is foo bar".
  • Do not read the content verbatim from the slides.
  • Talk slowly and clearly at the audience. If you feel you’re speaking too slowly, you’re speaking at about the right speed.[4]

Taking Questions

  • Maintain a calm, composed body language. Make eye contact with the questioner as you hear the complete question.
  • Repeating and rephrasing (if needed) the questions is a good strategy. Ask the questioner if you have understood it properly and then proceed to answer it.
  • It is good to say, “I don’t know”, “I didn’t think this before”, “Let’s talk about it after the lecture”, or “That is very important criticism.

Many points are taken from these excellent resources:

  1. Alon, U. How To Give a Good Talk. Mol. Cell 36, 165–167 (2009).
  2. TED Talks Playlist: Before Public Speaking
  3. TED Talks Playlist: How to Tell a Story
  4. Paul Graham: How to Present to Investors
blog by Vivek Rai