Assignment #3

Due Date: Friday 12/08 or Monday 12/11

In this assignment, both you and your partner need to make a presentation of your work. The target length is 20-25 minutes. A good talk will include a clear statement of the problem you are studying, a discussion of how you went about investigating the problem or solving it or both, results (perhaps in the form of graphs), and conclusions. Hopefully, a good chunk of the work is finished by this time, but it is definitely OK if it is not all complete.

Signing up: Meeting times should be arranged by signing up for a slot outside of my door (7357). All talks will be held in my office to an audience of size 1 (me), or perhaps 2 (me and the TA).

Here is a sample outline:

Introduction and Problem Statement. What problem are you are trying to solve or look into? Why is it an important problem?
Approach. How did you approach the problem? What is your methodology? Why is this a good way to approach the problem?
Results. What have you found out? Present experimental results here. Make sure to both describe what you are doing, as well as describe the results.
Conclusions. What did you learn from the process? What should others take away from what you did? Both specific ("Under our six benchmarks, LinLogFS performed 10-50% worse than Ext2FS") and general ("Perhaps log-structured file systems, while excellent under micro-benchmarks, do not measure up under real workloads") conclusions.

Here is some general advice about giving talks:

Repeat the important stuff. When hearing a talk, it is easy for the listener to miss small parts of what you are saying. Thus, try to pick out the most important results and highlight them, perhaps once at the beginning of the talk, once when you actually present the result, and then once again at the conclusion.
Focus on the first few slides. One of the few places where you have most people's attention is in the first few slides. Spend a lot of time getting these right! I often use the first few slides as a "talk within a talk" -- one slide to present the problem, another to describe how I approached the problem, and a third describing my solutions and results. Then, the rest of the talk just presents more details, and if someone stops paying attention, at least they probably know what I did (if not exactly how I did it).
Use outlines to form structure. Sometimes it is hard for the audience to follow a talk without help. One useful thing to do is to use an "outline" slide to describe the structure of the talk. After presenting the "talk within the talk", I usually put up an outline slide to show the structure of the rest of the talk. Then, as I go through each section, I might put up the outline of the talk again, to show the audience where we are, and how much further we have to go.
Present graphs and experiments clearly. One of the most frustrating aspects of presentations occurs when the presenter does not take the time to explain the results that they are presenting. If you show a graph, explain the experiment, and make sure to explain the graph (what each axis plots, what different lines on the same graph refer to, etc.).
Get the timing right. Assume that you will take 2-3 minutes per slide. Thus, for a 25 minute talk, do not have more than 12-13 slides of real content! You are on a tight budget here, so make sure that you do not go over the allotted time. Note that outline and title slides don't have to count in this total (they take little time to present).
Above all else, practice, practice, practice! The best way to give a good talk is to give it more than once. Practice aloud and preferably in front of other people. Practicing is certainly the best way to get the timing down. Practicing in front of people not familiar with your work is the best way to make sure your presentation is clear. It's often surprised me how much a talk improves simply by going through it aloud even just once before presenting the real thing.

Prepare your talk in PowerPoint and bring it on a floppy or a laptop, or bring transparencies. Make sure to notify me about exactly which format you will be using.

Optional: You can optionally include a short demo of your project (if appropriate), t but please don't spend more than 5 minutes on this. Also, please consult with me on this before the actual date.

More tips and information on how to give a good talk can be found at Mark Hill's web page.