Upon submission of an abstract or sample of your work to a conference, you may be selected to give an oral presentation often accompanied by a digital display or other visual component (e.g. PowerPoint slides). It is important to emphasize the major insights of your project during this presentation. This is often followed by a question-and-answer session. A moderator will be present to aid you in set-up, relaying questions, and ensure that events proceed in a timely manner. While the exact time may vary between conferences and sessions, one can generally expect to present for 10-12 minutes with an additional 3-5 minutes for questions.

It is important to understand the exact specifications of the conference you are presenting at when preparing for an oral presentation. The ultimate goal of the oral presentation is to showcase novel findings and inspire further discussion of the topic with other researchers. Presentations encourage broader dissemination of your work and highlight that which may not receive attention in written form.

What Makes a Good Oral Presentation?

  • Know your audience: Adjust the presentation to your target audience, this will be different when presenting to professionals in your field compared to those who may be less familiar with the topic.
  • Remember, less is more: The “bigger picture” should be kept in mind when constructing the visual component and communicating the research.
  • Implement a clear and logical delivery of your ideas and results.
  • Utilize your visual aid as an effective compliment to your oral presentation for emphasis or depiction of key points.
  • Balance the text you do use with pictures and figures such that your dialogue is an integral component of the presentation.
  • Make the text clear and large enough to be viewed from a distance.
  • Ensure that the theme and color schematic of the visual component are practical and pleasing to look at.

Note: When constructing your presentation, keep in mind that you may have audience members that are color-blind and cannot distinguish certain color differences, such as red and green. Here are some guidelines to making a color-blind friendly presentation:

  1. Choose a color-blind friendly color scheme, particularly for graphs. Avoid pale green and pale red mixtures, purple, and pink.
  2. Beware of high-contrast color schemes. For example, a white background is tiring to the eye and can make it difficult to see colored objects on the slide, especially yellow or green text. Instead, try to use dark-colored fonts on a light-colored background.
  3. When making graphs, avoid differentiating lines by color as matching these colors to the legend can be difficult. Instead, try to use shapes or label the lines. If this is not possible, make the lines a decent thickness.
  4. During your presentation, try to not refer to things by color but by their location on the slide and/or shape instead.
  5. If possible, use a green laser pointer rather than a red laser pointer.
  • Include references in the appropriate format on each slide or at the end of the presentation in a reference list.
  • Include the names of your research institution, project contributors, and funding sources where appropriate.
  • Ensure that the length of your presentation falls within the specified time limit.

Prepare in advance then practice, practice, practice!

What does a 10-minute talk generally include?

  1. Title, Authors, and Affiliations (Slide 1)
  2. Background
    • Identify the present issue or need for your research in the field.
    • Set the context: Provide a platform for your project to further what is currently known of the topic.
  3. Motivation/Importance
    • Explain why the research was conducted.
    • Identify how the research addresses the underlying question.
    • This consists of:
      • Hypothesis: Identify the predictions of the study.
      • Objective: Identify the specific aims of the study.
  4. Methodology
    • Provide a brief overview of the approach used to answer your question.
    • Exchange words for diagrams or schematics when possible.
  5. Results
    • Describe the findings of your research without explaining the significance of them yet.
    • Identify major trends.
    • Be sure to provide labels or legends with diagrams, graphs, and figures.
  6. Discussion, Conclusion, and Future Directions
    • Interpret the major trends of your results.
    • Identify the significance of your findings. 
    • Describe the implications or utilities for these findings in your field and/or the broader community.
    • Outline future areas of study to clarify and further the insights yielded by the project.
  7. Discussion, Conclusion, and Future Directions
    • Provide a list of people and/or organizations that funded the research.
    • Acknowledge collaborating persons and/or organizations that provided ideas or other support that made the project possible.

Helpful Links:



Works Cited

Bourne PE (2007) Ten Simple Rules for Making Good Oral Presentations. PLoS Comput Biol 3(4): e77.

Nick. “A Colourblind Guide to Colourful Presentations.” Oxford Protein Informatics Group, 20 Oct. 2013, University of Oxford, Accessed 29 May 2018.