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Is it necessary to have many slides when presenting in conference, if the speaker can clearly present his or her research with only just a few slides? How to decide when to use or not to use the slide? Science and engineering fields of research are preferred.

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    Where -- in conferences, seminar or classrooms? Because, with venue; the preference should change. – Coder Nov 19 '16 at 11:00
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    What field? Also, why do you think that the purpose of a presentation is to get applause? – Bitwise Nov 19 '16 at 11:17
  • @Bitwise In any field. If everybody likes that presentation, the presenter will get applause, won't (s)he? – Mike Liu Nov 19 '16 at 11:23
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    What is exactly your question? The one in the title? Your paragraph is quite unclear, and it looks like you have something more precise in your head - share it clearly if you want relevant answers. – Benoît Kloeckner Nov 19 '16 at 12:36
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    I have seen an excellent and engaging presentation with three slides at a conference. That suggest it isn't necessary. – Roland Nov 23 '16 at 11:33
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Slides serve the following purposes:

  • If the title of your paper is too long, you don't have to write the title on the board, losing time.
  • They keep the audience up-to-date. Gives an idea on what you are doing now, what you are going to do some time after.
  • Contains hard-to-draw figures. Therefore, you are able to talk to-the-point without losing time on drawing figures.
  • Contains experimental results. These, if extensive, literally cannot be drawn accurately onto board in about 10 minutes. Maybe they can be, but then there is no time to talk.
  • May serve you as reminder cards, therefore you don't forget what to talk about 2 minutes later.
  • In the Q&A session, if someone asks you about a table, a figure or a graph, you don't have to draw them again. Rather, you can just go back and answer the question.
  • If you are a junior researcher, you are able to write your name and affiliation on the slides, and avoid the awkwardness of writing your name on the board as if you're an instructor and if audience consists of students.
  • You can always support slides by using the board, and explain your points better.

These being stated, I think slides are crucial for a presentation where the time limit is considerably low (10-20 minutes including Q&A).

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    In connection with then next-to-last bullet point, "If you are a junior researcher ...", I suggest that all speakers, not only junior researchers, should make sure the audience knows who they are. Ordinarily, a printed program or the session chair's introduction will take care of that, but if not, then the speaker should do so. I don't buy the idea that senior folks (like me) are automatically known to everybody; new people enter the field and we shouldn't make it difficult for them to identify us.(For the same reason, even if we're not speaking, we should wear our name tags.) – Andreas Blass Nov 21 '16 at 4:29
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In my field (mathematics) and in my experience it is more common to use slides for conference talks than not, but a significant number of talks use a chalkboard or whiteboard, so it is certainly not necessary to use slides. (By `slides' I mean projected electronic files, such as beamer or powerpoint, not acetate sheets)

I might add my impression that if anything talks that eschew slides are considered better than those that use them. However whether a speaker uses slides depends on other factors such as the duration of the talk: the longer the talk the better the opportunity to give a board talk.

(And I agree with comments above that applause per se is rarely the primary aim of a speaker or the measure of a good talk.)

  • As a side point, I always advise against choosing slides because the talk is short. If you use slice to go quicker, you will most probably go quicker than your audience can follow, missing the point entirely. The sole counter-example to that principle I know of is complicated pictures which are very long to draw but very short to understand. Long formula are usually long to write and long to understand, and using slides for get them past faster is a bad idea. – Benoît Kloeckner Nov 19 '16 at 12:35
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    But that seems like a very math specific thing. In chemistry for example it's basically impossible to present research without slides. – DSVA Nov 19 '16 at 13:01
  • @DSVA same in biology (though it could vary with the subfiled). It would look very odd if you give a verbal description (or drawing) of your experimental results. – Bitwise Nov 19 '16 at 18:51
  • One advantage of board talks is that you can set aside a part of the board for material that the audience needs to refer to often, throughout the talk. With slides, you need to either repeat that material on lots of slides or rely on the audience's remembering it accurately. – Andreas Blass Nov 21 '16 at 4:35
  • @AndreasBlass Or if you're lucky there's a chalkboard besides the projection screen and you can write more permanent stuff on that. Best of both worlds :) – user9646 Nov 23 '16 at 8:40

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