One of my slides of my presentation at a technical conference includes a timing diagram. I have to explain the functionality of the read/write operation with the help of this figure. I have maximized the diagram and am planning to explain each signal assertion. This slide is one of the many slides and I am concerned about the time needed to be allotted for the timing diagram. I feel it is rather important as it explains the functionality of the proposed model.
Please suggest how I should go about formatting the diagram as well as explain the timing diagram. Edit1 : A timing diagram is used to trace a set of signals to explain the behavior of a particular system. More details here

  • How familiar are the audience with timing diagrams? Jan 17, 2015 at 17:14
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    What is a timing diagram? Can you link to some that are similar to yours?
    – Bill Barth
    Jan 17, 2015 at 17:16

2 Answers 2


If your audience cannot be expected to be fully familiar with timing diagrams, begin by explaining what they are - a lot of software people are unfamiliar with them.

I suggest alternating between showing the complete diagram for context and showing an expanded view of a portion of it. The expanded portion will be easier to read, and will call attention to the points you are currently making. You can add annotations that would not fit on the full diagram. When you show the full diagram, put a box around the piece you are going to explain next, so that the audience can see how it fits in the full diagram.

In the expanded views, I would keep all the signals in their normal order, but possibly bold the ones that are relevant to the current discussion.

  • I hope the audience(Professors, Post-docs and PhDs) at a Design Automation Conference should be aware of the timing diagram concept. Preferential bolding can work, but how do I expand views in beamer? Jan 17, 2015 at 17:47
  • I don't know beamer, but at a minimum you can have a stack of slides that you treat as one slide. Attendees at a Design Automation conference may come from a wide range of backgrounds. Jan 17, 2015 at 18:45

This is the sort of situation in which I highly recommend animations.

Rather than just showing the whole diagram (which will typically be quite complex) and trying to direct the audience's attention as you explain, you can physically direct their attention by the messages move as you talk about each one, creating the diagram as they go. The eyes and the attention of the audience will be drawn to the moving elements, and you can build the complexity incrementally from an initially simple and easy to grasp slide.

It takes longer to build such an animation, and you have to embrace a presentation program that can support it properly (e.g., LibreOffice or PowerPoint, but not so much Beamer). I find, however, that it is definitely worth the investment of time and effort, in terms of how it improves your ability to communicate with your audience.

  • I almost completed the entire presentation in Beamer. Since the timing diagram should be the meat of my talk(unless someone decides to hijack it in some other direction), should I resort to Powerpoint? Jan 17, 2015 at 17:48
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    @envy_intelligence If you're uncomfortable with the nastiness and proprietary nature of PowerPoint, there are good free alternatives like LibreOffice. But honestly, yes, I think it's worth using animation-capable presentation software. I also suspect that converting will be less painful than you may fear: I find that the hard part of making slides is deciding on the content, not realizing it.
    – jakebeal
    Jan 17, 2015 at 17:51

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