Oral Presentation Tips

The goals of this document are:

  1. To inform you on how to best use the presentation spaces and the tools the Physics and Astronomy department makes available for your Comps presentation.
  2. To identify ways to minimize the number of "surprises" that can occur during your presentation.

Presentation apps:

Your choice of presentation application matters. We suggest using some version of MS PowerPoint rather than a PDF editor to develop your presentation, mainly because PowerPoint has the 'Presenter View' mode which displays a countdown timer and private notes area that are displayed on your laptop, but not on the projection screen.

Try to use the same version of your chosen presentation app for your actual presentation as the one you used to develop it. For example, different versions of PowerPoint can display your presentation differently, so if you develop your presentation on your laptop, but present on a different computer with a different version of your app, you might be unpleasantly surprised.

Presentation Tools:

We can lend you a 'Comps Kit' containing a Clicker, Laser Pointer, and Countdown Timer.

A Clicker enables you to remotely switch slides in your presentation. This frees you up to move around the room while giving your talk, making you more dynamic and interesting. Clickers work with most, but not all computers, so it's a good idea to test it with your laptop during your walkthrough (see 'Presentation Spaces' below).

The Laser Pointer is brighter than the laser built into the Clicker, which is necessary when presenting in large rooms such as Olin 141.

The Countdown Timer enables you to keep track of how quickly you're working through your presentation material and help you make your 50-minute mark. Note that PowerPoint's Presenter View also provides this feature, so the timer is most useful to those using another type of presentation app.

Presentation Spaces:

Approximately a week before your talk you will receive an email from Bruce Duffy asking you to schedule a walkthrough of the space and to reserve the space for practice talks.

Bring your laptop to the walkthrough (if you plan to use it) because one goal of the walkthrough is to make sure your laptop plays nice with the presentation tech in the room.

Presenter Kiosk:

The rooms have Presenter Kiosks with these components:

  • A small touchpad control panel
  • A built-in dual-boot computer (mac-mini)
  • DisplayPort, HDMI, and Ethernet cables for laptop hookup.

Presenter Kiosk control panel:

The Olin 101 control panel allows you to choose between the built-in computer and your laptop to drive the overhead projector.

The Olin 141 control panel lets you choose whether you will be using the built-in (dual boot) computer or a laptop to drive the overhead projector, change the lighting, and raise and lower the projection screen.

Presentation Computer or Laptop?

The Presenter Kiosk has a built-in dual boot computer (MacOS and Win10 Enterprise) and DisplayPort, HDMI, and Ethernet cables for Laptop driven presentation.  The control panel allows you to choose which computer drives the overhead projector.

I would advise against using the on-board computer for your presentation for 2 reasons: 1) Its configuration resets when you log out, deleting all files you've saved on it, and 2) The version of the presentation application you've developed for your talk with may be different than what's on the presentation computer.

That said, if you choose to use the presentation computer, here's what you need to know:

  • Put all the digital resources (pptx, movie files, etc.)  for your talk onto a USB keydrive -- don't rely on the internet or the availability of any network folders.  It could be your bad luck that Carleton's servers are down -- it's happened.
  • The computer's power switch is located in front of the kiosk about 2 feet above floor level. It's a small red plastic button with a helpful 'Power' label next to it.
  • The presentation computer is dual boot -- when the computer has booted or just finished its refreshing cycle you must choose either the MacOS or Win10 operating systems.  Use the keyboard's arrow keys to select and then hit the return key.
  • If you use PowerPoint's Slide Show mode on the Win10 image you may notice that the 2 views are swapped: your Notes view appears on the big screen and your public view appears on the computer monitor. If that happens, go to into Slideshow mode, look for the 'Monitors' dropdown menu, and select 'Primary Monitor' (instead of the default 'Automatic' setting).


Using a laptop is preferred, if you have one.  To use it, plug in either the DisplayPort or HDMI cable on top of kiosk and select either the DisplayPort or HDMI input source button on the Kiosk's touchpad control.

IMPORTANT NOTE The Presentation Kiosks no longer support VGA.  If your laptop is an older model with only a VGA port make sure to borrow an VGA->HDMI Adapter from us.

Room Lighting:

Ideal lighting is low light in back, and good lighting up front, except just in front of the projection screen.

In Olin 141, lighting can be partially controlled via the presenter control panel, and fully controlled by the switches in the prep space behind the blackboards.  Using the actual switches is better because you get immediate response (the computer controls have lag time) and because you can control the spot lights, which the control panel does not talk to.


Your presentation will be recorded

The Physics department will record your presentation and post it to the 'phas_vids' Google Drive folder within a few days for the benefit of those Physics majors who were unable to attend. See Viewing Recorded Oral Presentations for instructions on how to access this folder.

Sharing your comps video

The simplest way to share your comps presentation video is to download it to your personal computer and then then upload it to cloud based storage such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Once you've done that you can get a shareable link and email it.

If you don't want to use either of those services, you can use the "Filesender" utility, which allows you to upload your video to a server and then send an email with a download link to your designated recipient(s).


General Hints:

Download, don't stream:  Download any digital resources (movie clips, sound clips) to your computer/keydrive that you intend to use *before* your presentation.  Avoid the need to stream/download content during your talk.  More than one comps presentation has been compromised by YouTube access failures at the critical moment.

There are several free tools that allow you to capture streaming video.  I've use 'KeepVid' (@ keepvid.com) with success in the past.  Click here for a tutorial.

Timing:  Your goal is to talk for 50 minutes (+/- 5 minutes).  Most people talk faster during their actual presentation than during their practice talks.  You can compensate for this by preparing some optional material that can be added or dropped without compromising the primary themes of your talk.

Knowing how much time you have left is important.  Carleton's wall clocks are unreliable.  If you are using PowerPoint, learn to use the 'Presenter View' mode which displays a built-in countdown timer.  Additionally, the Physics department has countdown timers for just this purpose.

Writing implements:  You will need chalk, a chalk board eraser and a cloth to wipe your hands if presenting in Olin 141.  Dry erase markers and a dry eraser are needed if presenting in Olin 101.

Water:  Bring it.  Talking for 60 minutes is thirsty work!

Treats:  Good treats are important, but you don't want to worry about them when you're about to present.  The simplest solution is to trade your treats responsibility with another comps-ing student.

Olin 101 Projection Screen: Sometimes it can be difficult to pull down the projection screen in Olin 101 all the way so that it stays down.  The trick is that the internal latch mechanism works inertially, so pull down quickly and then stop and hold the bottom of the screen in the desired position for a moment.


An idealized scenario:

  • You choose your presentation application and create your presentation, making sure you have enough material to hit the 50-minute mark.  Now is a good time to decide if you're going to use a clicker, laser pointer, etc.
  • You respond to Bruce's email asking you to schedule a walkthrough.
  • At the walkthrough, Bruce hands you the Comps Kit and walks you through everything, making sure all tools work as expected, and shows you how to set the room lighting, etc.
  • You do one or more practice talks in the presentation space.
  • You rock your comps presentation.

Finally, if you have suggestions on how to improve this document, let me know!

Bruce Duffy