Speaker Presentation Guidelines

Presentation Foundation

Readability and Slide Formatting

  1. Prepare your slides with an aspect ratio of 16:9, rather than 4:3. We now conduct all our events using HD equipment.
  2. Recommended 32 pt. font size to ensure everyone can read the slide.
  3. Use high contrast between text and background, ideally black on white.
  4. Keep text content sparse, 4-6 bullets per slide.
  5. Limited, clear graphics work better than dense, jumbled slides.
  6. Test printing slides in black and white to make sure all is readable and clear. This is particularly important for links and graphical images.
  7. Make sure the slides presented for printing are the final copy that will be presented during your session.
  8. Extremely important: Make sure most of your slides are presenting solutions rather than defining the problem. Most of the audience is in your session because they know what the problem is.

DATAVERSITY Presentation Policies

  1. We avoid remote or phoned-in presentations. Too much is lost in this dynamic.
  2. No long personal or organizational intros. Maximum of one slide about yourself, and one slide on your company. Try to keep the information that is relevant to, and provides context for, the rest of your talk.
  3. No sales pitches. The audience has paid their registration to be educated, not to be sold to.
  4. Similarly, do not push your books or training/consulting services. It’s fine to mention what you do, what your specialty is, and what books you’ve written (all as part of your one-slide intro), but the audience will not appreciate being told that they must buy your book or attend your three-day workshop to get value from your talk.
  5. Humor is always great, but avoid ageist, sexist, racist, or other discriminatory jokes or comments. Do not curse or use offensive language. Avoid religion and politics.
  6. Including your contact information is a great idea.
  7. Avoid strong perfumes or scents.
  8. Wear something to which a wireless lavaliere microphone can be attached, ideally to the middle of your chest about 6 inches below your chin.
  9. End on time and leave the podium – the next speaker needs setup time and attendees have somewhere they need to go after your session. Make yourself available out of the room for additional follow-up.
  10. Only keynote speakers will be introduced by the conference producers at the beginning of the presentations.
  11. Arrive 10-15 minutes before your presentation. If you are not in your meeting room 5 minutes before your presentation starts, we may tell attendees in the room that the presentation may be canceled.

Content Validation

Abstract and Preparation

  1. Provide an abstract that has a clear set of topic/learning expectations.
  2. Be specific if attendees should have specific knowledge prior to the session.
  3. Be clear if attendees should bring anything specific to the session. (e.g., a laptop, pen and paper, and an open mind).
  4. Appreciate/acknowledge the expertise of the audience. Be mindful of the level of expertise needed for your content and audience, when introducing your topic.
  5. Make sure your title gives a clear expectation of what the presentation will provide and that the talk reflects that content.
  6. Make sure your talk fits in the audience's target market and skill level. Business, Modeling, etc. and Introductory, Advanced, etc. If you are “expecting a room of developers”, state that in the abstract.
  7. Spell check – few things reduce your credibility quicker than simple spelling errors
  8. Links to additional resources and tools are often helpful. Show references/footnotes on actual slides next to diagrams/examples.
  9. Acknowledge copyrights and original sources next to those references.
  10. When reviewing your final presentation, place yourself in the shoes of your audience.

Honing Your Message

  1. One to two minutes per slide is a good starting estimate.
  2. Make sure your message can be clearly delivered within your timeslot. Practice reading it out loud and reduce detail to shorten, add detail to lengthen.
  3. Make sure to show value in your presentation. Real-world, practical examples and takeaways are good, as are conclusions tied to actionable advice.
  4. If mentioning something out of topic, make sure to give a brief description/explanation for anyone that may not be immediately familiar with the technical term, etc.
  5. Make sure to distinguish fact from opinion and support arguments with examples.
  6. Providing context is good, stating the obvious dilutes your message (e.g., “data doubles every X,” “Business pace is increasing”). Our conference attendees are seasoned professionals who know.

Presentation Structure


  1. If showing examples or links, have everything cued up ahead of presentation ready to go; do not waste time searching or loading.
  2. Pick your approach: Case Study or presenting an approach, idea, or solution.
  3. Decide on your tone: logical, emotional, or based on expertise.
  4. Use a table of contents or some other way to chart your path and use it to identify “you are here” guideposts, both for you and your audience.
  5. Tell them what you are going to tell them; set the stage for your talk.
  6. Present your core thesis or message in a single slide near the beginning. A single “from-to” statement is very powerful (e.g., "I am presenting a Big-Data solution... selection"). 
  7. Tell them; be clear, as this is where you do or don’t make your point.
  8. Follow up your thesis with two or three supporting ideas or examples. Pro/con, risk/benefit, cost/value comparisons can help make your point.
  9. Build transitions between your main point and supporting ideas and show the progression through your slides with the table of contents/guideposts.
  10. Tell them what you told them; reinforce your message so they absorb it.
  11. Briefly summarize your supporting points and how they demonstrate your core message.


  1. Before entering the room, plan how to stay on topic and manage your time. Use a coach if needed to signal if are drifting off time or topic.
  2. In multiple speaker sessions, be aware of the dynamics between you and the other speakers, so you have equal time and don’t speak over each other. Some rehearsal/planning will help make smooth hand-offs.
  3. Start with a strong greeting. Be yourself, but make sure everyone knows you are now in charge. Make eye (or forehead if you’re shy) contact.
  4. Engage the audience right away; learning increases when audience members know they are expected to participate. Quick answers encourage engagement; saying you’ll get to that later will lose the attention of your audience
  5. If you’re not sure of an answer to a question, feel free to ask the audience. People attend to network and learn from each other and this sort of interaction can be extremely valuable and generate engagement.
  6. If in a large room, repeat an audience question before answering so all can hear unless the questioner is using a microphone.
  7. Step out from behind the lectern; your movement helps keep their attention and is a great stress reliever for you.
  8. Look at all four corners of the room; everyone will feel you are talking to them.
  9. Stand to the side of the screen facing the audience and point with an outstretched arm. Let them read the slide while you add commentary.
  10. Make plans before you present where you can expand or compress your material, in case you are behind/ahead of your planned timing.

Additional Resources

Meanwhile, here are some resources that may help speakers improve their design skills:

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