On this page:
Who is Your Audience
Where to Start
What to Present


oral communication is the other half

Who is Your Audience

When you prepare your presentation, you must start from a model of your target audience.This basic fact also applies to writing. You need to figure out what they know, what you share with them (and what you don’t), and what you want them to take away. The key is to develop a path from the former to the latter. This path typically starts with the problem and its motivation and the overall focus is on insights not technicalities.

Where to Start

Start with the field of inquiry. Chances are that your fellow students don’t know anything about it (which is why a PhD program tries to develop a common foundation via core courses).

Next focus on your paper and how it relates to the bigger picture. Tell the audience who wrote it, when and where it appeared, whether it is a singularity or an element of a long stream of papers, and if the latter is the case, where it sits there.

At this point your are ready for the core of the presentation.

What to Present

Above all, keep in mind that you presents facts and findings.

Do not present the work you performed, how you proceeded, how much work you put in. This advice also applies to written presentations. Reviewers have a nickname for such papers/talks; they are called "what I did last summer" presentations, and people do not wish to sit through such presentations or read such papers.

Having said that, your presentation must cover the following:
  • why you chose the paper for the core course on programming languages;

  • your first impressions of the paper and what questions it left you with;

  • how you went about answering these questions; and

  • what, if anything, your investigation helped you understand in depth.

It is acceptable in this kind of presentation to explain failures, in particular, (1) why you think you tackled the task in the wrong way and if so, (2) how you think you should go about it if you had to do it over.