Ecological Society of America

How to...

Helpful Tips for Oral Presentations

These guidelines are intended to be suggestions on how to create an effective scientific presentation. Use what works best for you!


  • Rehearse!! So many wing their presentations or prepare them on the plane. This leads to reading the slides and not truly engaging the audience.
  • Presentation slides are not speaker notes. If you read the slides to your audience, you might as well give them handouts and send them on their way.
  • Keep it simple. When using bullets, no more than 3 bullets per slide and no more than 5 words per bullet.
  • Bring up one point at a time. This allows you to control what the audience is reading. If you bring up all the bullets at one time, the audience will read to the bottom of the list while you are still talking about your first point.
  • Be sure to speak loudly and clearly into the microphone.
  • The audience will appreciate it if you look at them rather than the screen or your paper.
  • Use active words and short sentences.


  • Presenters should give an opening statement to acquaint the audience with the nature of the research.
  • Discuss the same material as reported in the abstract.
  • Be sure to limit your presentation to the time allotted. Rehearse your presentation before hand and time it. Keep in mind the actual delivery of the speech takes longer than the rehearsal. Know what to omit if you start to go over in time.


When building your presentation, use standard fonts (e.g., Times Roman, Helvetica, Arial, Times New Roman). Basic fonts are included on the session room laptop computers, but if an unusual font is used it may not translate.

  • Use large fonts. Backgrounds of slides should never be white. Light colored background can be used if black block lettering is used. Avoid red lettering.
  • Bring your presentation on a Windows readable USB flash Drive or CD-ROM.
  • The operating system will be Windows XP and software will include: Microsoft Office XP, PowerPoint.
  • We will not be able to support Macintosh computers.
  • Session rooms will be equipped with a data projector, a laptop computer, and a microphone. You do not need to bring your own laptop to the meeting room. Slide projectors for 2X2 slides and overhead projectors are NOT supported unless requested by June 1 to Michelle Horton at

Helpful Tips for Poster Presentations

These guidelines are intended to be suggestions on how to create an effective scientific poster. Use what works best for you!

Poster Sections:

Title: A short, descriptive title should run (centered) across the top of your poster. The title should identify the specific study organism, where applicable, and should identify the outcome of the study. Words should not be abbreviated in the title. The title should be easily readable from 5-10 feet away, and letters should be no less than 1 in. (2.5 cm) high. The title should have the first letter of major words in upper case, the rest in lower case letters.

Name and affiliation: All authors' names and affiliations should appear directly below the title, and should be about 25% smaller than the title. If there is room, include authors' first names; however, middle initials and titles are not necessary. Use abbreviations wherever possible.

The body of the poster: Besides an abstract, the poster for an empirical study normally includes an introduction, methods, results, discussion, and literature cited sections.

  • The Abstract should be no more than two paragraphs long, and should be understandable without reading the entire poster. The abstract should contain the purpose of the study, a brief statement of your methods, a concise statement of results, and the major conclusions.
  • The Introduction should present the research question and current knowledge on the topic, and end with your hypothesis. Be brief but thorough.
  • The Methods section should describe the procedures used in your study. Illustrations may help clarify complex experimental designs.
  • The Results section should summarize the data and should present results, whether they are positive or negative. Use tables and figures where appropriate, and include legends.
  • The Discussion section is an interpretation of the meaning of your results, not a rehashing of the results. Make sure to provide explanations for unexpected results.
  • The Literature Cited section should include only those references cited in your poster.
  • Some posters have an Acknowledgments section to thank funding sources or assistants not listed as authors.


A poster is a visual representation of your study. Graphics should constitute a large portion of your poster. Here are some hints to make your graphics more effective.

  • Graphics should be visible from 6 feet away.
  • Each graphic should be identified by a unique number and a short "caption" should be associated with each. The number should be referred to in the text of the poster and the caption should explain the graphic.
  • Tables are preferable to figures for small data sets.
  • Stick to simple 2-D line graphs, bar charts, and (if you must) pie charts. Avoid 3-D graphs unless you're displaying 3-D data.
  • Lines in graphics should be >0.5 pt but <2 pt in thickness.
  • Use clearly distinguishable colors for line graphs and histograms to identify data sets. Avoid elaborate shading and cross-hatching.
  • Photos should have at least 300 dpi resolution in order to reproduce well.

Text Recommendations:

  • Font size should not be smaller than 3-4 mm in height. F or headings (excluding main title), use bold font that is 32-36 pt. For supporting text use 22-24 pt. No text should be less than 20 pt.
  • Keep font type simple (sans serif for titles, serif for text). Times, Times New Roman, Arial, Tahoma and Helvetica are encouraged font types.
  • Be consistent with fonts - stick to the same font family for all titles. Use color and point size or bold to distinguish title hierarchy.
  • Use upper and lower case letters; all upper case is difficult to read.
  • A bullet style presentation makes for an easier read ( use phrases rather than full sentences) .
  • Use left justification rather than full justification.
  • Avoid italics other than in scientific names. Also avoid underlining.
  • Use active voice, short sentences, and simple words.
  • Be as concise as possible.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread!

Design Recommendations:

  • Avoid overcrowding the poster; there should be about 20% text, 40% graphics, and 40% empty space. Balance the placement of text and graphics.
  • Use color sparingly. However, a solid-colored background will unify the poster. On the other hand, a busy background can make it difficult to read the superimposed text. Stick to a theme of 2-3 colors, no more.
  • Use a light color background and dark letters for contrast. Dark background with light letters is very tiring to read.
  • Overly bright colors will attract attention, but wear out readers' eyes. Consider people who have problems differentiating colors - one of the most common is an inability to tell green from red.
  • Use headings to identify each section of your poster. Avoid using WordArt that comes with Microsoft programs.
  • Identify the flow of the poster (e.g., some posters number the sections in the order they are to be read). Use white space creatively to define flow of information.
  • Column format makes a poster easier to read in a crowd. Don't fight "reader gravity" that pulls eye from top to bottom, left to right
  • Embed graphics throughout the poster. Use the same fonts for graphics and text to make the graphics look integrated with the rest of the poster.
  • Show, don't tell. If it is important make it larger.
  • Use spaces between lines of text to separate sections (boxes around sections also work nicely).

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