What am I doing here? The purpose of this course is to give you experience
at delivering oral presentations of scientific material and technical
information. You will be required to give three different presentations
and to critique those of your peers. At the end of this course, you should
be more confident when speaking in front of your peers, you should have
developed prioritization and time management skills for presentations
(since professional talks are frequently only 10 minutes long), you should
be more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of technological aids used
in presentations (Powerpoint, video, etc.), and you should be more capable
of critiquing and assisting your peers with these same skills.
There is no formal textbook for this class. However, I will distribute
three short articles on public speaking, taken from Physics Today,
The Physics Teacher, and from the CUR Research Quarterly.
You must read all three articles before class on January 30.
How will I be graded?Your
grade will be determined by:
presentations will be graded on clarity and scientific content,
appropriateness of your visual aids, time management, ability to answer
questions, and poise. Design your presentation for an audience having
the same knowledge as competent junior physics majors. Your critiques of
others will be graded on helpfulness and integrity. Furthermore, the
questions you ask of other presenters will be included in your
are the presentations about?
Each presentation will be different:
first presentation must be about a recent (1990-present) experiment that
won a Nobel Prize in Physics. You must focus on the experiment, rather
than the experimenter. The talk will be 10 minutes long with an additional
2 minutes for questions.
presentation must be about a journal article from either Scientific
American, Physics Today, or Physics Teacher. Be aware
that this talk must focus on the information in the article itself,
rather than information from another source on the same subject as the
article. The talk will be 12 minutes long with an additional 2 minutes
for questions. This presentation may not use any technology other than
The third presentation must be about a successful
experiment that you did (for
example, in Intermediate Lab I, or in a summer REU). The talk will be 15
minutes long with an additional 3 minutes for questions.You must
create all graphics from scratch… nothing from the internet will be
Tips for Oral Presentations
the science of your talk inside and out.
on topic. Although you may discover interesting biographical material
about the scientists who did the work, that is not the subject of your
include a lot of text in a slide. Visual aids should be visual, not
textual. Slides should be primarily for pictorial information and
summary points. Whenever you have a lot of text, say it aloud rather
than showing it.
you do have text (such as titles or bullet points), don’t read it to
your audience. For the most part, the audio (spoken) and visual
components should complement rather than repeat each other.
and time your talk out loud several times.
bring notes (i.e., 3 ´
5 cards, or even 8½ ´
11 paper), but they are for emergencies only, since you’ll have
your talk memorized. Well designed slides provide all the prompting that
any speaker needs.
eye contact with your audience.
embedded animations and sound effects. These almost always detract
rather than support a talk. They suggest that you are filling up time
because you have nothing relevant to say.
sure that visual aids have excellent (not merely adequate) contrast.
Nobody can read a black font on a blue background. Projection images
rarely have the same contrast as a monitor seen up close.
should be clear and as simple as possible to communicate the concepts.
plagiarize! If you borrow artwork, you must cite the source. You may
never “borrow” text of any kind. This is supposed to be your talk,
not some web site’s.
on time. You will be given a 59 second grace period to start your
technology. If you start late, it is your
fault, not the speaker who went before you.
on time. A minute talk should last between and minutes.
inappropriate humor. This includes, but is not limited to, “inside
jokes”, comments about how the talk is going, and all slides having
no purpose other than humor. In a real presentation, your audience
will be comprised of 99% people you’ve never met.
careful to not assume that your audience knows more than they actually
absolutely no more than 4% of your preparation time adjusting the
layout (borders, backgrounds, etc.).
prepared to give your talk even when there is no network connection!
You will be permitted to reschedule only on days when SUNY closes the
with the actual hardware. Software may be missing, different, or too