Presentation Guidelines

Please review these guidelines as you prepare to give your presentation at Museums and the Web.

View free online training sessions on presentation techniques, offered via the JHU Museum Studies program and chaired by Loic Tallon:
  1. Wednesday 27 March, 10am PST with Peter Samis, Dana Mitroff-Silvers, and Amy Heibel
  2. Tuesday 2 April, 10am EST with Mike Edson and Susan Chun

If you have suggestions for ways to improve presentations at Museums and the Web, please add them in a comment.


  • You will be on-line, with projection and sound from the Web on a quality AV system – USE IT.
  • You have a highly experienced and technically adept audience – USE THEIR TIME WISELY.
  • The best presentations are those that show one or two very new things and provide time for discussion.
  • Practice your delivery.

Spoken vs. Written Papers

Your spoken paper cannot be the same as your written paper, both because time is too short and because written papers are often extremely boring to listen to when they are read out. Remember, your audience will have a copy of the Proceedings with your full article. Highlight your best points, and your original contribution.


This is a very nice application, when used carefully. But reading the text of your Powerpoint™ slides is as great a mistake as reading a written paper. Slides can introduce the speaker and paper title, present a high level outline, show the audience the text of a quotation, illustrate with a diagram where words fail, provide a conclusion, state provocative ideas, or leave open questions that will be remembered after you sit down.

But slides that drill relentlessly down an outline only to arrive at your text are just plain dull. Spend some time thinking about effective visuals.

Want to see some good presentations? Check out those given at Museums and the Web in the past in our Slideshare group.

Length of Speaking Time

Check with the chair of your session about speaking times. Typically you will have either 20 or 30 minutes in total, and some of this should be reserved for questions and discussions. If your portion of the shared time is 20 minutes, plan to speak for no more than 12. If it is 30 minutes, plan to speak for no more that 20. You’ll have a bit of space to over-run, and still leave time for questions. Having a limited amount of time means that you should not try to say everything – it is more important to focus on the part of your thesis that is new or different and deserves further explanation.

Exploring Novel Ideas

Your written paper probably has a section establishing the background – telling about your museum, about your funding, about the team working on your project. Please DO NOT use your time at the podium to tell the audience these things. They are all fellow professionals who have come to MW to hear what you have to say – they can read the background for themselves.

Reference Other Work

This isn’t just show and tell. Help your audience by positioning your work in the context of others. What did you build on? Where did you depart? What’s your unique contribution? Make it clear that you are aware of the contributions made elsewhere, and that you didn’t just “re-invent the wheel”.

What Not to Show!

All MW attendees have access to the Web and can visit your Web site by themselves. DO NOT conduct a general tour. If you’re giving a paper or mini-workshop, it’s because you’ve got an idea or issue to explore.

If you’re giving a Demonstration, think about a quick path through some relevant sections to highlight your achievements.

What to Show?

On the other hand, your colleagues DO want to see the concrete implementation on-line that is the focus of your paper. Showing them, rather than telling them, will be much more interesting and will help them appreciate what you have done. If in doubt – NEVER tell something with a bullet if you could be showing it in action. MW is a conference about the Web – you will have fast connectivity, and if you want you can cache your content to make it even faster. Especially when describing interactives or processes, show how the Web actually makes it work.

How Technical?

Your colleagues are fairly technical people, but no one can easily listen to large amounts of technical detail and absorb it. This will be easier for them to get from the published paper. What they do need to hear is often best presented with diagrams. In spoken presentations, data in tables can be understood more easily as charts – architectural diagrams and high-level flow charts are better than code. If the point of your paper is itself highly technical, try to explain WHY it is different from other approaches and WHAT RESULT to expect. Leave the listener wanting to find out HOW to achieve it by reading your paper later.

Your Goals as a Speaker

You want your audience to remember the central points of your talk, and to leave wanting to read your paper. You want them to contact you in the hall during the conference to get greater insight. You want them to remember that what you said stimulated discussion, and that you were open to other ideas.

If you don’t speak in public often – and even if you do – review your presentation with someone else to see if you’ve met your goals.

Thank you for helping present a great conference program!

For more information, leave a question in the comments on this page or contact contact the MW2012 Conference Co-Chairs
Nancy Proctor and Rich Cherry, Museums and the Web LLC

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