I am going to present a paper at a conference for the very first time. Given the COVID-19 scenario, that conference is being held online. I have prepared a slide for my presentation. Can I annotate my slide during the presentation to help the audience get a better understanding? My topic is quite complex and full of protocols which I believe I can explain better if I can annotate.

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    Are you asking if it is technically possible (may depend on the online platform), if it is a good idea, or what? Once a time, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, a number of people wrote their slides live and in person using pens on sheets on the overhead projector - many were quite good at giving talks that way. Much harder to do nowadays, sadly....
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 8, 2021 at 17:05
  • @JonCuster was asking about the later one. Thanks for clarification :)
    – Turing101
    Dec 8, 2021 at 18:22
  • I don't know if it is technically possible, but you can make the slides animated, so that annotations appear just at the right time. General advice, keep each slide simple as possible. In a conference no one is looking for much details, the job a presentation should do is to communicate ideas and results.
    – Alchimista
    Dec 9, 2021 at 8:15
  • What is preventing you from adding the annotations to the presentation PDF beforehand and make them "pop up" in the order you want to? PowerPoint can do that, latex has \pause for that and so on.
    – Polygnome
    Dec 9, 2021 at 12:24
  • I very much recommend putting your annotations into the presentation from the start. You may want to refer back to your slides in a year, or share them with someone - and by them you will not know what you put on them by hand during the upcoming conference. Related: academia.stackexchange.com/a/7574/4140 Dec 9, 2021 at 12:50

2 Answers 2


A general rule for presentations is to keep the slides clean and use the most important keywords in short sentences. Annotations on top can definitely help. I do not think the rules of a reasonable conference can bar you from doing so.

Be careful though that what you are planning will work. Perhaps a full rehearsal will answer that question for you.

Remember that added layers of complexity (e.g. interacting with your slides using annotations) increase the chances of technical malfunctions, which you might want to avoid. So unless you can do a full-scale test, I would not risk the annotations but restructure the presentation such that it is clear even without annotations.


Many conferences don't put many constraints in the delivery format of a presentation, so from this point of view you're probably allowed to annotate your slides.

From a technical point of view, you have to check whether the conference platform allows one to annotate the slides or not. For instance, some conference platforms require you to upload your slide deck and don't rely on screen sharing. In such a case, annotations may not be possible due to the platform's limitations.

However, many conferences have strict time constraints (e.g. in my field presentations are typically limited to 15-20 min), and annotating the slides typically increases the time needed to deliver a presentation. Are you sure that you would be able to deliver your presentation with annotations within the given time constraints?

Finally, since this is your first presentation, will you be able to annotate your slides with firm hand or will you end up producing wavy lines with imprecise starting and ending points out of nervousness?

In view of the above, regardless of the conference's policy and technical requirements, I suggest you to produce an already annotated slide deck. That is, incorporate the annotations you intend to draw during the conference in the slides with the drawing tools that your favourite presentation software has (or even by hand).


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