Collected guidelines for the presentation at the Matagne-la-Petite workshop

by David de la Croix and Freddy Heylen

Here are some guidelines for the presentation at the Matagne-la-Petite workshop. They are collected from a document “TIPS ON PREPARING FOR THE WORKSHOP , Tim Kehoe, May 2001”, by the User’s Guide to the Beamer Class, Till Tantau, 2004, and by the book “A guide for the Young Economist”, by William Thomson.


The fundamental ingredient in a good presentation is preparation. When you are preparing your transparencies, you should think about what is the point that each is supposed to make. You can be sure that, if you do not think about this sort of question ahead of time, you will have to do so during your presentation. One of the most common questions during a presentation is, What do you want us to learn from this transparency? or, more bluntly, Why did you put this transparency up?2. When you are preparing transparencies, make sure that the font is large enough to be readable.

Pay attention to the time during your practices and during the presentation itself. You will have 50 minutes to present your work during the workshop. Remember, however, that some of the most important elements of each presentation are the questions and suggestions from the audience and the speaker's responses to them. You should probably prepare a presentation that would run 30-35 minutes without interruption. Remember that there is nothing wrong in finishing a presentation a few minutes early, but it is a crime to run over time!

Since time is precious to you in your presentation, you should think carefully about how you want spend it. Long introductions are almost always a bad idea. What the audience usually wants to learn during the introduction is what is the question that you intend to answer, why the question and the answer are important, and, probably, what you answer is going to be. In general, audiences do not like research presentations to be mysterious. Surprise endings are fine for novels and films, but usually not for economic research.

Remember in preparing your introduction that the audience is probably not very interested in your own personal history of economic thought. If your research is closely related to other papers, it is worth briefly explaining the relationship. Long discussions of the literature and, in particular, transparencies with long lists of papers, are usually a waste of precious time during a presentation.

How Much Can I Put On a Slide?

A slide with too little on it is better than a slide with too much on it. A usual slide should have between 20 and 40 words. The maximum should be at about 80 words.

Do not assume that everyone in the audience is an expert on the subject matter. Even if the people listening to you should be experts, they may last have heard about things you consider obvious several years ago. You should always have the time for a quick reminder of what exactly a “semantical complexity class” or an “o-complete partial ordering” is.

Never put anything on a slide that you are not going to explain during the talk, not even to impress anyone with how complicated your subject matter really is. However, you may explain things that are not on a slide.

Keep it simple. Typically, your audience will see a slide for less than 50 seconds. They will not have the time to puzzle through long sentences or complicated formulas.

Lance Forthnow claims: PowerPoint users give better talks. His reason: Since PowerPoint is so bad at typesetting math, they use less math, making their talks easier to understand.

There is some truth in this in my opinion. The great math-typesetting capabilities of TEX can easily lure you into using many more formulas than is necessary and healthy.

You will be surprised how much mathematical text can be reformulated in plain English or can just be omitted. Naturally, if some mathematical argument is what you are actually talking about, as in a math lecture, make use of TEX’s typesetting capabilities to your heart’s content.

Writing the Text

Use short sentences.

Prefer phrases over complete sentences. For example, instead of “The figure on the left shows a Turing machine, the figure on the right shows a finite automaton.” try “Left: A Turing machine. Right: A finite automaton.

Punctuate correctly: no punctuation after phrases, complete punctuation in and after complete sentences.

Never use a smaller font size to fit more on a frame.

Do not hyphenate words.


When you are practicing your presentation, think about the mechanics. In some presentations, the speaker covers part of the transparency with a piece of paper and then slowly moves the piece of paper down uncovering more and more of the transparency or in which the speaker uses a pen to point to things or to highlight things on the transparency. In general, however, this sort of trick can irritate the audience a lot: It tends to make the speaker look down at the projector and talk to the projector, rather than look at audience and talk to the audience. It also tends to block the view of the transparency of part of the audience. A better way of doing things is to stand back from the projector and to point to things on the screen, just as I would point to things on a chalkboard.

Answering [sometimes offensive] questions

A useful list of questions that the members of the audience ask themselves is: What question is this paper trying to answer? What sorts of tools does the author use to answer the question? What is the answer that the author comes up with and does it make sense to me?

Before answering any question, make sure you have fully understood it. If not, request the person to restate it or to rephrase it.

Requests for clarification should be addressed quickly.

For questions that challenges your approach, modesty is the best strategy. In such a case try to answer the question honestly, do not enter into long justifications of your approach. State your counterobjections as well as you can, but do not belabor your point in hopes that your opponent will acknowledge that you are right. That won’t happen very often. In any case, the key is to answer the question, not to overdefend your view.

Right after the seminar, make note of questions you wished you had answered better, as well as of suggestions for improving your work.