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Communications of the ACM

Kode Vicious

Presenting Your Project

person making presentation

Credit: Sheng Han

The what, the how, and the why of giving an effective presentation.

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CACM Administrator

The following letter was published as a Letter to the Editor in the November 2010 CACM (
--CACM Administrator

The Kode Vicious Viewpoint "Presenting Your Project" by George V. Neville-Neil (Aug. 2010) made several debatable points about presentations, one of which was inexcusable: "...I always end with a Questions slide."

You have just given a 25-minute technical presentation to an educated, knowledgeable, technical audience. Using a series of slides, you have explained your problem, described your solutions, discussed your experiments, and finally concluded, displaying each slide for a minute or two. Your penultimate slide summarizes the whole presentation, including its "takeaway" message everything you want your listeners to remember. Now you expect to spend four or five minutes answering questions. The slide you show as you answer will be on screen two or three times longer than any other slide.

So why remove the most useful slide in the whole presentation the summary and replace it with a content-free alternative showing perhaps a word or two. Is your audience so dense it cannot hear you say "Thank you" or ask for questions unless they're on the screen? Do you think the audience will forget to say something? Or is the problem with you, the presenter? Would you yourself forget to ask for questions if the slide wasn't on the screen in front of you?

Technical presentations should be held to a higher standard of information content and knowledge transfer than a sales pitch. My advice: Remove the "Thank You" and "Questions" slides, and leave up your "Conclusions" and "Summary" as long as possible.

Michael Wolfe
Hillsboro, OR

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