- Oral Presentation Guide -


Lectured by Dr. Vivian Louis Forbes

Professor, School of Earth and Environment, The University of Western Australia

It is natural to feel nervous before making a presentation of your research to a peer group or an audience, either large or small. A few hints will assist in making you calm, cool and confident.  Remember, that you have an allocated time to make the presentation; however, if the session is running behind schedule, your allotted time may be curtailed and you may not be able to mention everything you had planned to convey. You need to get the important aspect of your research.

Although, the general rule is to say a few words about your academic background and research; it may not be necessary as the Chairperson may take on that task. So there is no need to take up valuable time. Place your name and affiliation after the title of your topic on your first slide.

Commercial PowerPoint packages offer all sorts of ways to add visual enhancement to your slides: fades, swipes, flashing text, and other annoyances are all too easy to insert with a few mouse clicks. These are fine if you are making a sales promotion, however, for an academic, scientific research presentation keep it simple.

Avoid the temptation to dress up your slides with unnecessary clutter and focus instead on simple design basics:

  1. Use a sans serif font for body text. Sans serifs like Arial, Helvetica, or Calibri tend to be the easiest to read on screens.

  2. Use decorative fonts only for slide headers, and then only if they’re easy to read. Decorative fonts –calligraphy, German blackface, futuristic, psychotic handwriting, flowers, art nouveau, etc. – are hard to read and should be reserved only for large headlines at the top of the page. Better yet, stick to a classy serif font like Georgia or Baskerville.

  3. Put dark text on a light background. Again, this is easiest to read. If you must use a dark background – for instance, if your institution uses a standard template with a dark background – make sure your text is quite light (white, cream, light grey, or pastels) and maybe increase the font size up a few points.

  4. Align text left or right. Centred text is harder to read and looks amateurish. Line up all your text to a right-hand or left-hand baseline – it will look better and be easier to follow.

  5. Avoid clutter. A headline, a few bullet points, maybe an image – anything more than that and you risk losing your audience as they sort it all out.

  6. Using colour on your slides. Consider the concepts of colour balance, contrast and conflict. Black text on a white and yellow on navy blue background are ideal; green on white and white on read, or green on red are NOT aesthetically pleasing. Try it!

  7. Using graphics. The temptation to use graphics from other sources may pose a problem when conveying the message to your audience. When projected on the screen the image may not be in focus or sharp colours may lack contrast. This is especially the case of pie-graphs.

  8. How many slides? A good rule is a slide a minute. Hence if you are allocated 15 minutes it is a good policy to restrict the number of slides to less than 15 as your time spent on each may vary. Endeavour not to go over your allocated time.

  9. Practice runs. Time yourself as you practice your presentation. This exercise will certainly put you at ease.


    Brief Introduction of Dr. Vivian Louis Forbes

    Dr Forbes is presently:
    • A Distinguished Research Fellow and Guest Professor, CIBOS and CICTSMR, Wuhan University (ongoing to 2017)
    • Adjunct Research Professor, NISCSS, Haikou, PRC (extended to June 2019)
    • Guest Professor, Xiamen Universities; Dalian Maritime University and Yunnan University
    • Visiting Research Fellow, Maritime Institute of Malaysia (ongoing since 1993)
    • Adjunct Professor, School of Earth and Environment, UWA
    • A Committee Member of Higher Education Forum, Taiwan

    He is professional, practising cartographer, marine political geographer, lecturer in spatial sciences and marine affairs and former Merchant Naval Officer. He is a professional cartographer, lecturer, supervisor to Graduate and Under-graduate students. He is author of a number of books, atlases and has been consulted on matters relating to maritime and terrestrial boundaries. He has presented his research on higher education at conferences.