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Psychology: 85-356: Expertise: The Cognitive (Neuro)Science of Mastering Almost Any Skill: Presentations

A guide on how on finding literature and using library resources

Useful Articles on Giving Presentations

Data Visualization at CMU Libraries

Resources from the GCC


Designing Effective Slide Presentations


Presentation Skills


Tips for Presentations

  • Include an outline in one of your first slides so that your audience knows what to expect during your talk. You can then include this outline as a transition slide in between parts of your talk. This will help orient both you and your audience and remind them of what is coming next. See more on this below.
  • Spend some time at the beginning of the talk (usually 5-10 minutes depending on the length of talk) setting up the problem or main point of your talk.
    • Why is this topic or problem important?
    • What is the background info that your audience needs to know to understand the concepts and ideas presented in your talk?
    • What prior work or research is important for understanding your topic?
  • Consider your audience! Are they experts in this area? If so, you might be able to make the introduction less general for example.
  • Use words sparingly and rely on visuals when possible.
    • You want your audience to be listening to you rather than spending mental energy reading so just use bullet points or minimal text to orient your audience if needed.
    • Use schematics when possible to illustrate complicated ideas.
    • Think about what makes an effective visualization. If you are presenting data, it's important that the visualization accurately represent the data. You can find some tips here
    • Use color-blind-friendly colors for visualizations and make sure graphics and the text are large enough to be readable (suggested color-pairs below!)
  • Talk about all of the graphics on your slides. If you don't have time to talk about it or it's tangential, remove it. It will just serve as a distraction.
  • Finish the talk with some conclusions and include some future directions if you are presenting your own research.
  • Practice giving your talk! It might be especially important to rehearse the intro slides to ease any nerves you might have as your talk begins.

Design: Outline and Transition Slides

It can be really helpful to have an outline slide at the beginning of your talk so your audience knows what to expect. What are the major parts of your talk? Then as you move onto a new part of the talk, you can show the outline slide again and use highlighting to orient the reader as to where you are in the talk.

Design: Colors

  • About 8% of men and 0.5% of women are color-blind. It's therefore critical to choose colors that will readable to your entire audience.
  • Use color-blind friendly colors. Avoid certain combos such as green & red or blue & purple (see the chart below)
  • You can use the following chart to help you pick color-blind friendly color combos. The left panel represents what most of the population sees. The two right panels represent what colors look like in two different forms of color-blindness.
    • The blue boxes illustrate that color combos can look very different in color-blinded and non-color-blinded vision. For non-color-blinded vision, green and bluish green is almost indistinguishable but for a color-blinded person, red and green are similarly difficult to tell apart.


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