23. Masterworks: The Oral Presentation


Each spring the Department holds a special thesis poster event, called MasterWorks, where masters students make presentations of their research to interested Department faculty, students, and guests. We will be in touch with all M.Eng. students at the proper time. Prizes will be given for the best presentations. Here are tips for preparing a poster.

If for any reason participation in Masterworks is not possible, students are still required to make an oral presentation of their thesis project. This valuable part of your thesis generally consists of a twenty-minute presentation with a five-minute discussion period with the supervisor and at least one other faculty or staff member. Your supervisor will arrange your presentation. VI-A students completing thesis research at work usually arrange the oral presentation with their company supervisor, even if the final document is not completed there.

Supervisors are responsible for arranging oral presentations. While this presentation is not a 'thesis defense', the supervisor may include the quality of the thesis presentation when assigning the final grade.

Hints for Oral Presentations:



2 mins

Introduction: Background, Motivation, big picture

1 min

Statement of Objectives, the Problem, the Hypothesis

3 mins

Overview: Approach, Methodology

10 mins

Most Important Thing: More Detail Here [example, substantive accomplishments

2 mins


2 mins

Conclusion: key lessons, need for future research












Note that you spend almost half of your time introducing or concluding.

  1. Practice in front of friends, supervisor, and mirror. Practicing gives smoothness and polish. Do at least one complete 'dry run' for timing.
  2. Keep it short. Budget your time. Wear a watch or put it where you can see it, and stay aware of the time. Don't rush by talking fast. If you're running long, go straight to your conclusions, and omit detail.
  3. Don't read, but use notes or an outline. Speak clearly and more slowly than seems reasonable. Make eye contact. For a poster session, don't turn your back to the audience to look at your poster! Have an outline you can refer to.
  4. Be extremely organized and use a logical structure. Avoid getting bogged down in excessive detail. Give the Big Picture quickly, but mostly talk about your thesis project, not the total research project. Consult your supervisor for advice about which parts to cover in more detail. Here is a possible structure for a 20 minute talk:
  5. Use a few (<10) professional-looking slides. Projectors may be reserved in advance from the Instrument Room, 38-501, 3-4675. You don't have TIME to use the blackboard. Don't clutter up slides with many equations; keep them simple. Use figures, diagrams and pictures. For a poster session, allow plenty of time to make your poster look professional, with large figures.
  6. It's better to be too formal than too casual. Dressing up and speaking properly may help cover lack of sleep and nervousness. This doesn't mean your speech has to be humorless or lifeless.
  7. Your target audience is neither your supervisor nor a freshman, but your fellow Masters students in Electrical Engineering or Computer Science, as well as other interested faculty and staff.