Speaker Guidelines

Oral Presentation Tips


  • Handouts are recommended. However, you should not merely read the handout to your audience.
  • Handouts have an advantage over visual aids in that they are not subject to equipment availability and can be kept by the audience.
  • Handouts should include your name and address for those who want to request the final version of the paper.
  • Prepare a sufficient number of handouts.
  • If you run out of handouts, be sure to collect business cards or names, addresses, and e-mail addresses to send copies later.

Visual Aids

  • The key word is aid.
  • Your visuals are to convey information in an understandable form to the audience.
  • Avoid illegible clutter or “death by the vu-graph.”


  • All speakers find it valuable to practice their delivery before the actual presentation.
  • Practice your talk.
  • Get colleagues to listen to you, including some who are not too knowledgeable on the topic of your paper; they will be able to point out places where you may not come across clearly.
  • Make such rehearsals as realistic as possible and time them.
  • Refining your timing is one of the most important aspects of your rehearsal.

At the Conference

  • Refer to 2015 NCHS Presentation Guidance and Audiovisual RequirementsCdc-pdf for instructions on submitting presentations prior to and during the conference.
  • Check the Errata Sheet for any last minute changes.
  • Check the location of your room, so you can arrive on time.
  • Arrive at the meeting room 10 minutes before the session begins to take care of last-minute details.
  • Be sure that the Session Chair knows you are there.
  • Make arrangements with the chair for the distribution of your handouts.
  • Stay aware of the time for your presentation. The chair is required to stop your presentation at the end of the allotted time, regardless of whether or not you are finished.
  • Use the microphone provided and speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard in the back of the meeting room.
  • Stay for the entire session as a courtesy and benefit for your audience and your co-speakers.

Speaker Ready Room

  • Sunday, August 23: 3:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. (Cabin John)
  • Monday, August 24: 7:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. (Cabin John)
  • Tuesday, August 25: 7:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. (Cabin John)
  • Wednesday, August 26: 7:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. (Cabin John)

The Presentation

  • Be sure the microphone works before you begin.
  • Be sure everyone in the room can see your slides. Make sure you do not block the screen. Move around if you must so that everyone has a chance to see everything. Handouts are a big help.
  • Never apologize for your displays. Make apologies unnecessary by organizing the material properly in the first place (see the recommendations above). Do not say, “I know you can’t see this, but…” The reaction of many people in the audience will be “why bother showing it, then?” (Or, even worse, “Why didn’t you take the trouble to make them legible?”)
  • Don’t apologize for incomplete results. Researchers understand that all research continues. Just present the results and let the audience judge. It is okay to say, “this is work in progress.” Do not say, “I’m sorry that work is not done.” This invites the audience to tune out or wonder why you are talking at all.
  • PowerPoint presentations should follow HHS guidlines for Section 508 compliance. For more information on Section 508 and a PowerPoint template for the 2015 conference, see: Accessibility

When Finished

  • Thank the audience for their attention
  • Gather your materials and move quickly to allow the next presenter to prepare.
  • Stay for the entire session and, afterward, be available for people to ask you questions.

Page last reviewed: November 6, 2015