21

The first slide which follows the title page of my presentation is the overview slide. It has the title for each section to follow in the talk (thank you Latex!).

My question is how much time is to be spent on the Overview slide, given the talk lasts twenty minutes? Should I talk about each section's one-line-synopsis to let the audience mull it over? If the answer is no, how do I transition smoothly from the Paper Title Slide to the one on Motivation for the talk (For example : Why I love Science?).

  • 2
    What do you mean exactly by "overview slide"? From your first paragraph, it looks like you mean a dry slide with the list of section names (which can be generated automatically by, e.g., Beamer's \tableofcontents). @Jakebeal in his answer seems to understand it as a handwritten slide with an introduction/synopsis (which is maybe what you called "motivation slide"). Please edit and make it clearer. – Federico Poloni Jan 27 '15 at 10:11
26

I often skip the overview slide in short talks. Instead, after giving motivation I simply say what the talk it is about: This talk will introduce you to Nutella, analyze its deliciousness, and compare it to peanut butter. Finally, we will talk about Nutella extensions - chunky Nutella, with chopped hazelnut.

In general, the overview slide allows the listeners to pace themselves, and understand where in the presentation you are.

  • 1
    I have a sidebar to point out where I am in the presentation even though the Overview slide is long gone. In this context, I want to know how audience "would understand where in the presentation you are". – envy_intelligence Jan 27 '15 at 5:56
19

I think the overview slide is the most important slide in the talk.

I like to use my overview slide to encapsulate the whole talk in a single diagram. A heuristic that I find holds true is that in a good <1 hour talk, you can say one idea: that idea might have a lot of different elements and side points as part of its explanation, but it all really anchors down to one core statement if you want the talk to hang together tightly. And that's what's on my overview slide.

You can tell it to the audience straight, too. I like to say, "Here's my talk, summarized in a single slide" and then explain the ideas. It's also good to give people the "punchline" of your talk right up front too, and then promise that by the end of the talk they'll understand how it works / why it matters / whatever.

One important further thought: I strongly recommend that your overview slide be very diagram/image-driven. Have people listen to your words, rather than read them, and a diagram will stick with their minds much better.

Edited to add Per request, some examples of visual overview slides from talks that I have recently given:

Aggregate programming overview talk

BioCompiler talk

Fast consensus algorithm talk

  • 1
    Visual overviews are great. When possible, I like the overview slide to be based on some structure, e.g. an experiment flowchart. I also like to return to the overview when transitioning, highlighting the place we're going to; often, I'll put up a normal overview. Then after summarizing, switch to overview w/ 1st piece bold, remaining pieces faded. Subsequent transitions have 'finished' pieces normal, next piece bold, upcoming grey, to keep the audience grounded. – Michael Ekstrand Jan 27 '15 at 18:52
  • Do you have an example of an image-driven overview slide? All that I can recall seeing in person are simple bullet lists. – Mike A. Jan 28 '15 at 14:31
  • 1
    @MikeA. Here you go! Three recent examples... – jakebeal Jan 28 '15 at 15:27
12

This may somewhat depend on the field and maybe I am a bit biased, but I have not seen a single overview slide (following the title) that was not a total waste of time so far. Eloquent Science agrees with me.

Essentially, there are two flavours of useless overview slides:

  • The overview slide and what the speaker says alongside it tell me that the talk has a more or less standard structure. To give an extreme example:

    First, I will give an overview; then I will present my methods; then I will present my results; finally, I will draw my conclusions and give an outlook.

    Nothing of the above helps anybody to follow the talk better or in any other way, as they already expect something along the lines of this to happen. If there are deviations in the detail, this is nothing they need to know at this point of your talk. Even, if your talk has some very unorthodox structure, e.g., if you start with the results and then have the methods follow, you can mention this when you start describing the results and do not need an overview slide for this.

  • The overview slide and the speaker tell me something about the actual content, such as

    I first introduce the problem of banana transmogrification. Then I explain our latest progress on flux compensators. Finally, we will report on our results on transmogrifying bananas with flux compensators.

    The problem here is that most people attending the talk know next to nothing about flux compensators or banana transmogrification and thus will have forgotten that flux compensators are going to appear in this talk halfway through your first slide on bananas. Sure, there will be one or two people in the room who read your recent paper on apple transmogrifications with flux compensators, but those are not the people who need your didactic attention – they would probably even understand the talk if you went through the slides backwards.

    This does not mean that you shouldn’t explain that the reason why you are talking about flux compensators is that you want to use them for banana transmogrification, but that’s something you should do when you transition from banana transmogrification to flux compensators. In general, you have to remind the audience again and again why you are doing things, explain connections to what you have said before and guide them through your talk with this, but that’s something that happens during the talk, not in the beginning.

As already said, this may be somewhat field-dependent. So, you are probably best advised to think about what you are going to present on this overview slide and take the point of view of the audience to consider whether it really needs and understands this information at this point of the talk and is not better said later in a more fitting context.

Also, there are a few occasions where some general sort of overview slide can be a good idea. For example:

  • In a long talk that is separated into several large and seemingly unrelated chapters, you might give a brief overview after the introduction to the general topic.

  • If you address several aspects of something that are at first separate. For example, a colleague of mine once gave a talk where he “took a tour through the parameter space” of a system and regularly showed an overview diagram of the parameter space like a tour map, indicating what places were already visited and what came next.


If the answer is no, how do I transition smoothly from the Paper Title Slide to the one on Motivation for the talk (For example : Why I love Science?).

How would the transition from an overview slide to a motivation be more smooth than from a title slide to a motivation?

That being said, I do not think that this transition needs to be smooth at all. The transition from whatever happened before you started talking to you talking is very unsmooth already, and thus it won’t be any worse if you dive straight into the big important reason why you are doing what you do.

However, often something relevant to your motivation appears in your title and you can build a transition on this. For example:

As you probably guessed already, I spent some time on transmogrifying bananas and you probably wondered why anybody would want to transmogrify fruit in the first place.

(I intentionally ignored your example topic, as in this case the whole talk would be a motivation.)

  • I couldn't agree more and would like to up-vote twice. – David Zwicker Jan 28 '15 at 4:53
11

It depends on what you mean by "Overview" slide. If it's an opener slide that introduces and communicates the core idea(s) to the audience, this is likely the most essential part of a talk; this is where you have to engage your listeners, it should motivate your whole talk.

If, however, the "Overview" slide is basically just a bunch of headlines ("Table of Contents"), I would consider this slide a waste of everybody's time. Instead of boring the hell out of your audience reciting headlines, your narrative should be easy to follow without ever presenting a ToC (in German, I would refer to that minding your "roter Faden"; I guess it's called "Golden Thread" in English?).

6

I never use "overview" or "agenda" slides.

They basically show what you will be talking about, which you will repeat afterwards anyway.

When you read a book, do you expect to have an overview of what will be happening? Or a movie? Or at a concerto would the pianist stand up and say "I will be playing the piano and the guy over here the trumpet"?

  • I have actually attended a concert where this happened – it wasn’t particularly good though. – Wrzlprmft Jan 27 '15 at 20:51
  • 1
    While it is not up to me to jugde anybody using an overview slide or not I still sustain the position that the analogy is flawed. Textbooks (and that's the closest thing to a scientific presentation) actually do have an overview of what they contain... and for a reason one might add. – Ghanima Jan 27 '15 at 22:52
  • @Ghanima: you are not expected to read a textbook in 20 minutes or an hour. You also get to choose it based on the content. When you attend a presentation you do not leave after the first slide, when you have made up your mind. – WoJ Jan 28 '15 at 7:25
  • @WoJ, while it might seem a little unpolite, it is very well possible to leave after the first slides. There are actually quite some cases where it would have been good to leave early. It happens now and then that the abstract or the announcement promises, uhm, well, "more" or something different than is actually presented. (And again it is not up to me to jugde your style of presentation, be it "overview" slides or a really big-ass kind of a motivational one. There is simply no right or wrong here.) – Ghanima Jan 28 '15 at 22:41
  • @Ghanima: a propos leaving after a few slides: this reminds me of a mathematician (I forgot his name) who sent a proposal at a conference titled along the lines of "Proof for Fermat's Last Theorem". His presentation was about something completely different. When asked why he did not present about the submitted topic he answered that should his plane crash, history would remember him as the one who solved the problem, but died before having a chance to enlighten the world :) So yes, sometimes leaving is the right thing to do :) – WoJ Jan 29 '15 at 7:06
3

A good overview slide is part of a road map that allows the audience to know where they are in the presentation. The overview itself provides the initial road map, and then as you get to major sections, you should have signpost slides that indicate where in the road map you are.

This helps the audience in a number of ways.

  • It gives them a good idea for what to look for in your presentation, particularly if they are only interested in part of it.
  • It helps them understand the relevance of the earlier slides. This is particularly important if you have some earlier section that may not seem directly related to your point but is necessary to understand it; but even without that, the signpost slides combined with the overview can help put the different pieces together.
  • It provides some structure, similar to how bulletpoints in this list make it more readable; with no signposts or road map it is like freeform text with no paragraphs.

Without that overview slide, the audience has to spend some effort figuring out how to put all of those bits together. Do the work for them, give them a road map, and let them spend their effort understanding your important points instead!

0

Including a sidebar is a far better option than using an outline slide (see example below). As noted in other answers, the audience already knows the order your talk will follow. A sidebar, however, is useful in that it gives the audience an indication of how far through your talk you are. (If I had a dollar for every time I wondered how much longer a talk would go for…)

enter image description here

  • If you have to wonder how much longer the talk would go, you probably do not care much about the talk anyway. Also, there are simpler ways to indicate this. These sidebars are just a waste of space and steal focus. – Wrzlprmft Dec 17 '16 at 12:13

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