When giving research presentations, I don't use outline slides since I am normally telling a story and believe that it is a poor use of time (hopefully I'm not instigating a debate, I just wanted to see if my logic extends to lectures)

However, I'm tempted to start including them in lectures so that students know what to expect and have an idea of the concepts being presented. I'm also thinking about the style where you periodically recall the outline to help keep the big picture.

When doing chalkboard lectures, if the answer is "yes" to the above, I would assume the same holds there. Probably a good use of time at the beginning, right?

  • 4
    From a student's perspective, I've never liked outline slides/time from the really good lecturers, but I feel like they help when the lecturer isn't quite as good. Great lectures are stories and rarely feel like they need them, but outlines are good at keeping things organized in my mind when the lecture isn't quite as coherent.
    – Roger Fan
    Apr 3, 2015 at 20:09

1 Answer 1


When giving a talk, no matter how good a storyteller you are, some significant percentage of your audience will be distracted at any given time. Outline slides are extremely valuable for helping those people catch up and rejoin your presentation.

What you don't have to do, however, is have a dry list outline. Whenever possible, I like to use a diagram instead, which unites the whole thing graphically, and indicate which aspects of the diagram we are currently dealing with. Nicely, this works quite well in chalk talks too.

  • 4
    For some reason, I haven't been considering the graphical approach (though I've seen it many times). Definitely more work (for the slide use case), but seems like it would be worth it.
    – user5872
    Apr 3, 2015 at 22:10
  • @user5872 Absolutely: a graphical version is more work and completely work the work. In some cases, when if was clean and simple enough, I've even had the graphical outline on every slide.
    – jakebeal
    Apr 4, 2015 at 13:48
  • 1
    This presentation has my favorite non-list outline slide ever. (See page 3)
    – ff524
    Sep 1, 2015 at 5:55

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