-1

I recently finished my Bachelor's thesis in math and I am about to be having my bachelor thesis defense (colloquium). The topic I've covered in my thesis is highly theoretical (differential- and algebraic topology) but also quite geometrical, i.e. I've added quite a lot of illustrations into my thesis.

I am now preparing my bachelor thesis defense where I am going present the work I've done and answer questions from my supervisor and maybe some other professors.

However, I am quite uncertain whether to do it the traditional way, i.e. writing myself a short lecture-script and writing the things I am presenting on the blackboard using only chalk.

Or rather setting up a "fancy" LaTeX-Powerpoint presentation where everything might be already written down and illustrated and I am basically just explaining what is going on.

The obvious advantage of using a Powerpoint presentation is that I might save a lot of time I would otherwise spend on writing everything down on the blackboard such as definitions, theorems etc.

On the other hand, I actually like the traditional style where I can draw the pictures on the blackboard and write things down my own (similar to a lecture). I am also always a bit sceptical about Powerpoint presentations (in mathematical lectures) since it forces me to read things out rather than write things down.

What would you recommend? This might indeed be a question I could ask my supervisor, but he will most likely be open to both and I think this is more a question about "personal preference" where both directions might be appropriate.

5
  • 1
    You really should ask your supervisor, even if he's open to both. Mar 7 '20 at 7:51
  • 1
    And if you settle for a PowerPoint presentation, make sure to check whether the room is equipped for this kind of presentation. And have a plan B in case something goes wrong.
    – Taladris
    Mar 7 '20 at 10:55
  • Present it all in slides. You want to avoid writing up anything remotely complex on the fly, in front of a live audience, unless you're very practiced at doing so. Even the simplest things become harder to get right under pressure.
    – Jeff
    Mar 7 '20 at 14:42
  • Use LaTeX Beamer for your presentations Mar 7 '20 at 19:32
  • why exactly is my question downvoted? what exactly is unclear in my question?
    – Zest
    Mar 9 '20 at 11:58
4

You typically want to maximize the amount of interesting content that is presented. (Where the definition of interesting can vary significantly by field and purpose of the talk.) So, the primary questions I think you should be asking are "How much time will it take to draw on the board?" and "Is this time well spent?".

Some pros for slides:

  • Drawing/writing on the board takes time, and often the audience just has to sit around and wait for you to do this. If this takes a significant amount of time, you are wasting the time of your audience.

  • In a thesis presentation you may have some material you want to present superficially, which is much more efficient with slides.

  • If there are good explanations that require visuals (animations or complex figures), you can't do this on a blackboard like you can on a computer.

  • I often (but not always) find that when people begin drawing on the board in the middle of an otherwise slide-based presentation that they just haven't spent the time to prepare proper slides.

  • If you want to give the talk again later, having slides can make it easier to repeat. This is especially if you go to an environment like a conference presentation where you can't use a blackboard.

Some pros for lecturing with no slides:

  • I usually write things out on the board when I am trying to teach a concept to a class, because I want to go through the content slowly and methodically, asking questions of the audience along the way. If you have time to do this it can be much more engaging and the audience can understand things more deeply.

  • When lecturing on a board, you can dynamically make changes based on the questions of the audience in a way that you can't do with slides.

All the usual caveats about giving good presentations apply. You're going to have to decide what you're most comfortable with, and go with that. In the end its up to you and your advisor.

3

Don’t make the classic error of just reading off the slides...

Instead, point out the interesting parts: “this term in the left hand side controls the rate of dive” etc.

However, ppt or chalk is minor, it’s how you put it across and how you answer the questions... They have probably prepped their questions anyway, either about interesting bits or parts they did not find clear.

Good luck.

3

I'd advise you to be very careful about this part of your question: "The obvious advantage of using a powerpoint presentation is that I might save a lot of time I would otherwise spend on writing everything down on the blackboard such as definitions, theorems etc."

That time you "save" might well be the time your audience needs to absorb the meanings of those definitions, theorems, etc. The biggest danger (in my opinion) of slides is that they make it too easy to go too fast. Even if you decide to use slides, make sure that your theorems and especially your definitions remain visible long enough for the audience to understand them (not just long enough for you to say you've presented them). This may even require repeating a statement on two or more slides.

1

A thesis defence for a Bachelor degree is at a rather different level than for, say, a doctorate. Your audience already know everything you are likely to say, but they are there to judge whether YOU know it and understand it. (I am assuming that the bachelor's degree in question is a particular subject rather than teaching skills, to which entirely different principles would apply).

So the question is how do you persuade them that you do indeed know what you are talking about.

To me, that suggests very strongly that you should spend minimum (maybe zero) time writing already known stuff on a blackboard, but maximum time on showing how well you understand it. So, you could use slides to set the context and to define your nomenclature so that when you say 'x' they know what it is that you are referring to.

Then focus your energy on explaining what you have done. I know that it is not easy in words, but if your starting point is how to use words, and then what picture would help, and if you get that far, what equation is needed to display my work, there is a good chance that your audience will be impressed.

It is very easy if you have been immersed in your subject to start with the equations and work backwards to the words. I urge you to start with words.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.