Oral Presentation Guidelines


Oral presentations are part of a panel of four or five  presentations, usually addressing a common subject matter.

In the sciences and some social sciences, presentations are usually made from notes and are accompanied by visual materials such as tables, graphs, and photographs (most often in PowerPoint). In the humanities and some other social sciences, presentations are usually read aloud from a prepared text, sometimes with accompanying visual materials. Work with your faculty mentor to produce an oral presentation appropriate to your discipline.

Oral presentations should be about 12-15 minutes in length with 3-5 minutes available for questions. Please time your presentation in advance with the realization that the actual presentation will take a few minutes longer than your rehearsal. Practice in front of a friend and let them assist you in ways to keep your presentation within the time limit so there is time for questions. At the conference, your session moderator will be instructed to keep presentations inside their time limits, even if that means curtailing talks. This will keep all concurrent sessions on schedule and allow audiences to plan their attendance based on time of day, building, and room number.   

Computers and Projectors

Whittier College will provide computers, projectors, and screens for those of you planning to do PowerPoint presentations. Please do not bring your own computers, projectors, or screens. Your presentation must be in PowerPoint format.  Presenters will also be provided with document projectors upon request, well in advance. Other media, such as overhead projectors, may be available upon advanced request.  All presenters must indicate clearly the equipment they will need when abstracts are initially submitted.

PowerPoint Presentations

Here are some general rules for those making PowerPoint presentations. They are necessary to ensure smooth, effective presentations. 

Before the Conference

  1. Keep words to a minimum on each PowerPoint slide; make sure they are readable from the back of the room. Words should be large enough to read from several feet away, but don't use all caps. Avoid using light colors for words, such as yellow or orange. The size of the typeface should be at least 12 point. 
  2. Test your presentation on a different computer from the one that you regularly use. This is the best way to discover any technical problems ahead of time. Test your presentation in its final form using your flash drive, prior to attending the conference. 
  3. You may upload your presentation via email before your oral session; however, we recommend that you bring your presentation on USB drive as backup.
  4. Prepare a hardcopy backup of visuals so that in the worst-case situation (complete computer failure) you'll still be able to present your work. We will have some document projectors that can project hardcopies under emergency situations.  It is better than having no visuals to accompany you presentation should an emergency arise. 

On the Day of the Conference

  1. There are four oral sessions during the conference:  Oral Session 1 -8:30 - 10:15 a.m., Oral Session 2 10:25-12:10 p.m., Oral Session 3 -1:30-3:10 p.m, and Oral Session 4-3:20-5:00 p.m.  
  2. You should plan to upload your presentation well before your session.  Please use the following schedule as a guide: Oral Sessions 1 and 2   Upload presentations from 8:00-8:20 a.m. Oral Session 3 and 4  Upload presentations from 1:00-1:30 p.m. Loading your presentations well in advance of your session will ensure that oral sessions stay on schedule, and we appreciate your cooperation in this.
  3. Once you check-in (first floor of the SLC) you should arrive at your presentation room at least ten minutes prior to the start of the session. Upon arrival at the room, identify yourself as a presenter and introduce yourself to the session moderator. 

Participating in Your Panel

A faculty moderator will chair your panel. They will introduce you and other presenters to the audience, describe the session's topic, keep time, and facilitate brief discussion following each presentation. It is essential that panels stay on schedule; moderators will stop presenters if they appear likely to run over their allotted time.

  1. Arrive before the beginning of your session and stay for the duration. Sit at the front of the room. Don't arrive late or leave following your own presentation; this is discourteous to other presenters.
  2. Check all support materials in advance (PowerPoint presentations, handouts, etc.) to avoid unnecessary delays in starting your presentation. Please follow the time guideline for uploading presentations.
  3. Listen to other panelists' presentations and participate during the question and discussions that follow.

Additional tips

  • Rehearse your presentation in advance with friends or family. Make sure that it is no more than 15 minutes long. Ask your audience what they have learned to see if you're getting your point across.
  • Face your audience; speak slowly and clearly and project your voice to the back of the room. Whether you are working from notes, PowerPoint, or reading from a text, make eye contact with your audience as frequently as you can.
  • If you're speaking from notes, number them so that you won't lose your place, and remember the general outline of the points that you want to make and the order in which you'll make them. If you're reading, read slowly enough to understand what you're reading (at a rate of about two minutes per double-spaced page).
  • If you are using visual aids (e.g. PowerPoint), prepare them well in advance and make sure they are clear. Keep words on slides to a minimum.
  • Watch your audience response; if they seem lost, slow down.
  • Presentations prepared on a Mac must be rehearsed at least once in advance on a PC to ensure compatibility.
  • Follow time guidelines to upload presentations.
  • Interact with other panelists in your session. Do not present and then leave your session.