In the last post of the Delivering Presentations series, I will cover the actual moment of delivering your talk. How to make your speech more interesting? How to find the right tone? How to make sure the audience is following you?

By now you should have already prepared and structures your talk. For that, you can read

Now we proceed to Part 3: Delivering your talk.

Rehearse out loud. Many times.

Practice leads to perfection is one of the oldest things you will hear people saying, and that’s because it is correct. Rehearsing can be boring and frustrating, and the reason for that is that in many situtations you will realize only after presenting something that you should have structured your slides differently. Nonetheless, better find these mistakes soon rather than later.

Everything I wrote about preparing the presentation in the previous post is actually a simplification. In truth, slides preparation and rehearsing are tightly-coupled in a loop that goes like this:

  • you rehearse
  • you realize things would look better if you rearranged the order of your slides
  • you do the necessary fixed in your slides and go back to the first step

You continue this loop until you are satisfied with the result. From my personal experience, rehearsing and rearranging 2-3 times usually results in a pretty stable presentation. However, if by the third rehearsal you still need to go back to the first step, don’t worry. After all, practice leads to perfection.

An important aspect one should pay attention to in rehearsing is:

  • speaking out loud
  • timing your talk

An idea is never really clear unless you speak or write about it to someone. When you rehearse out loud, you also hear what you are saying and process it in a different way. Sometimes, the line of argumentation you want to follow in your talk is broken, but the only way you will will realize that is after rehearsing out loud. I have often found myself rehearsing presentations just to find myself speechless when I realize I could have presented some things in a much better way.

It is also important for you to have an idea of how much time you are spending on your talk to be ready when the time comes. If you have issues with getting in a hurry under time constraints, as I have already seen with some students, one thing you can try is first delivering the talk without any time constraint, then recording the time and trying to select pieces of information you want to drop to fit into the constraint.

Use your voice for adding dynamism to your talk

You know how using bold or italic or colored fonts allows you to highlight ideas in a text? Guess what: you can also highlight ideas using your voice. Speak with excitement about the topic you are presenting. You probably know about it at least as much as your readers, considering you just wrote a whole paper about it. If you are not excited about what you are working with, then why would anyone be?

Avoid, at all costs, speaking MONOTONICALLY. Rehearsing out loud, as discussed before, also helps in this sense. If you don’t, your listeners will fail to grasp the most important ideas of your talk and will fall asleep. This is not about speaking out loud all the time; it is about assisting the listeners in filtering the most important ideas.

Notice that you have a tool for highlight (your voice), and if you just highlight everything (or don’t highlight at all) it will be difficult to grasp the most important points. It is like having a highlighter and highlighting an entire page of a book, or having bold font and highlighting an entire paragraph.

Introduces pauses in your speech to let readers take the content in

You know how, when you are talking for a long time, you just need to take a break to breathe or have some water? Here’s a secret: listeners also need pauses to absorb all the content you just exposed them, and process the information.

Use these water and breathing breaks to your advantage by placing them between sections of your presentation. This moment could be, say, right after you introduced the problem, and before the solution; or after the solution and right before your results. Let the listeners follow you to the ideas you are about to present, rather than dragging them with you.

Move around while talking

This is just as important as using your voice for adding dynamism to your talk. And also brings some very interesting advantages.

Think of the following situation. Ever heard of hypnosis? It likely has nothing to do with this situation, but serves as a good analogy. Imagine you are sitting in the audience, and someone is just talking minutes-long without moving at all. You don’t need to make any eye-movement, which makes it very easy for your brain to pay attention, but also boring. Eventually, you will fall asleep.

Moving around (as a speaker) serves to engage the audience into making an active effort to listen to you, which, surprisingly and counter-intuitively enough, will work to your advantage. A very nice advantage of this is that, as a speaker, you get to check if the audience is following and your argumentation (it can be quite fun when they do, because if you managed to grasp their attention then you will see their heads following as you move around).

Notice, however, that this strategy is not always possible to follow. In many conferences, you need to stand in a place with a fixed microphone, so in these situations where you obviously cannot move you need to rely only on voice emphasis (see subsection above).


This concludes my first series of posts in this blog! I hope you have found it helpful :-) Leave your comments in case you would like to discuss anything! I raelly enjoy discussing!

I leave below some references for further reading for those interested in improving their presentation skills. If you don’t believe me, believe them! :-)


  • The Craft of Scientific Presentations by Michael Alley. There’s a book and a reference page by the author, who also has also writting about other aspects of scientific research (which I may cover in future posts).
  • 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People by Susan M. Weinschenk. The book takes a very practical approach to presentations and presents interesting observations from a point of view of Psychology.
  • This interesting blog post by Rick Penciner. It is interesting to see that, regardless of the discipline of study, some key ideas for delivering presentations are universal.
  • This other interesting blog post by Adrian Sampson, on preparing conference presentations. His blog also has other very interesting posts that could be of assistante to computer architects.