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Presenting Papers

The following are guidelines for presenting mathematical papers at sectional meetings:

Recommended Methods of Presentation

There are two types of methods available to speakers for presenting papers: computer projectors (LCDs) or overhead projectors. An LCD is provided in all session rooms. Elaborate equipment requests may not be granted because of budgetary constraints. In most cases, requests made onsite cannot be accommodated, also for budgetary reasons. Laptop presentations are highly recommended.

Preparation of Transparencies for the Overhead Projector

The most frequent complaint heard at meetings is that the speaker's transparencies are unreadable. Although transparencies for the overhead projector can be written on while the talk is in progress, you are strongly encouraged to prepare them in advance and test them out with a projector. Writing as you lecture is not a good idea. For one thing, it invites recording too many details. In addition, if you make an error, you will either fail to notice it or else will cross it out and correct it. Either way the audience is distracted.

Preparation of Text To Be Copied

If you write by hand, use a #2 lead pencil on sheets of ordinary white 8 1/2" x 11" paper. Otherwise, you must photocopy your material before putting it through the transparency maker. Never write in script; it is too difficult to read. If you prepare a transparency by hand, you should print. (This does not mean all caps.) Prepare all pencil copies on a hard-surfaced desk or table, not on a cloth-covered table, blotter, or other resilient surface. There should be no smudges, erasures, or corrections on the paper as these will show on the finished transparency. Only copy written in pencil, or produced by laser printer or photocopy machine, is suitable for feeding through the machine. Copy produced by any type of pen or dot matrix printer must be photocopied first.

General Instructions

  1. Leave at least a 1" margin on all four sides of the text.
  2. Use characters not less than 1/2" in height. If you use word processing software, use bold type, 28 point or larger. Please note that the projected image is distorted in such a way that the upper part of each page is considerably larger than the lower part. To balance the image, make the characters on the bottom of the sheet larger and farther apart than those at the top.
  3. Use no more than 12 lines per sheet, and leave ample space between lines.
  4. Limit each transparency to one topic. Complicated problems may, however, be simplified in presentation by the use of overlays, which consist of several acetate sheets hinged together like the pages of a book. A complex image can be built up from simple components added to the picture, one at a time, by turning the pages. This mode of presentation can be very effective but calls for careful preparation.

Use of the Overhead Projector

Overhead projection equipment is relatively easy to use; however, a speaker unfamiliar with the overhead projector should practice with it prior to the lecture in order to become familiar with its features and feel comfortable with it during the lecture.

For maximum effectiveness in the use of the projector, please note the following suggestions:

  • Keep your shoulder out of the way! If it is lighted by the projector, it is blocking the screen.
  • Avoid distracting the audience by continually turning around to look at the screen. Be sure, however, to glance at the screen when placing a new transparency on the projector to ensure its proper placement.
  • Keep in mind that the projector's lamp can be turned on or off to direct the audience's attention to the speaker or to the screen as desired.

Provisions for Invited 50-Minute Speakers

A laptop computer and one computer projector are provided. Two overhead projectors and two screens are also available to lecturers who deliver invited addresses of 50 minutes or longer.

Invited speakers are usually scheduled to speak in large rooms. Accordingly, the characters on the transparencies need to be even larger than usual.

Please Note: Invited 50-minute speakers who need to illustrate while lecturing will be provided with a supply of blank transparency sheets and an overhead projector pen. Use only black, blue, green, or red overhead projector pens. Do not use pink, yellow, orange, or any pastel colors.

Additional Suggestions for Speakers

  • Speak loudly enough to be heard in all areas of the room.
  • Practice your speech, timing yourself to ensure that important points are not rushed and ample time is left for a summary.
  • Define key terms briefly

Additional Questions

The AMS Meetings and Conferences Department is available to assist you in answering any questions you may have about preparation of your talk. For questions, call 1-800-321-4267, ext. 4138 or email at