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Introduction to Level 5 by Tony Eng

Video Transcript: There are many things vying for your audience’s attention. They’re thinking about all the things they have to do. But also, your slides can compete with you for their attention. This week’s assignment is presenting a slide of data to an audience of peers. The difficult part is that you know what you want to say, and you’re really intimate with the details, but your audience is seeing it for the first time. So you really have to think about how they’re processing everything and how to walk them through everything. Check out the assignment for more details below.


Often research involves collecting data and then presenting that data – either formally in a paper or presentation, or informally in an email to your advisor or in an update on progress to your research group. However, when presenting data, avoid a data dump, i.e. do not just throw all the data onto a slide or into an email attachment and expect your audience to go through the data and understand it on their own. Instead, you should first analyze the data to look for the expected and the unexpected, and then help your audience see what it is you found in the data (the “so what”) in a manner that doesn’t overwhelm them.

In this assignment, you will present a slide of data to a peer audience, ideally data you’ve collected and analyzed (so they are actual results).   If you don’t have any, you can present any data that you have access to (e.g. from a paper or class that you’ve taken).

Complete The Following Steps

  1. Read through the assignment details & Rubric (Below)
  2. Design, or locate, your own data slides to use for this assignment.
  3. Write a draft of your presentation down on paper and rehearse it out loud.
  4. Find 2-3 people to be your audience.
  5. Make sure the people in your audience have a copy of the rubric for this level as well as the peer feedback questions (below).


The hardest part about this assignment is controlling audience focus because the moment you show your data, your audience’s attention will be drawn to it.  They will want to look at it and understand it, but at the same time, they will want to listen to you, and so as a result, your data will be competing with you for your audience’s attention.   When should they be looking at you, and when should they be looking at your slide? Your task is to manage this juggling of audience focus, while explaining the expected and unexpected things you found in your data.   The audience uses the expected as a sanity check (both of your data and of their understanding of it), but often is more interested in the unexpected.

Some Hints:

  • Just jump right in as if we caught you in the middle of a presentation and you happen to be getting ready to transition to your next slide (which contains your data).
  • Use the transition to your slide to give the audience context for what they are about to see.
  • You can control when your data appears on the screen.
  • You should orient the audience as to what they are seeing.
  • You should interact with the slide.
  • This is just an exercise, so you don’t have to present all your findings.
  • Lastly, for this video, pay particular attention to the following aspects of verbal and nonverbal delivery:


  • When you face your slide and away from the audience, you will need to increase your volume to compensate.


  • The audience will often look where you look, so you can use eye contact to help direct audience attention to the slide.
  • Use your hand to interact with your slide, thereby directing the viewer’s attention to the slide or to various parts of the slide as you cover it.
  • Feel free to walk up to the slide and to either side of it.  Do not continually block your audience’s view of the slide with your body.



Peer Feedback Instructions

Find 2-3 people and show them your visual draft.  Ask them answer the following questions:

  1. Where was your attention, as the viewer(s), drawn throughout the presentation?
  2. Did the presenter maintain control of focus throughout the presentation?
    • (The data did not overwhelm the audience nor compete with the presenter for the audience’s attention. Did the presenter help the audience know where to focus their attention at all times?)
  3. Did the presenter explore the data with the audience by explaining the data at the same time as showing it?
    • (Did the presenter give context, orient the audience to what they were seeing, and point out the expected and the unexpected results?)
  4. Was the data on the provided slides accessible?
    • easy-to-read
    • clearly visible during the presentation

Regarding delivery:

  1. Did the presenter interact with the slide comfortably?
    • (Did the presenter point things out to the audience verbally and/or physically by looking/gesturing at the slide?)
  2. Was the presenter’s voice clearly understandable?
    • (i) good volume
    • (ii) good enunciation
    • (iii) good pacing (not too fast and not too slow)
  3. Did the presenter maintain eye contact with the audience throughout the presentation?
  4. Did the presenter maintain an appropriate connection with the audience?
    • (The presenter included a narrative to make the content relatable to the audience and/or maintained a conversational tone in addressing the audience.)


  1. Is there any constructive and specific feedback for improvement that the audience has additionally to provide the presenter?


Note: We are looking for more student examples to post in this section. If you finish yours and feel inclined to post it to youtube please send us an email and we will post it here. 

Case Study: Tony Eng On Controlling Focus When Presenting Data

WARNING: This video serves as a demonstration of the underlying ideas from this exercise applied to a (then) current MIT graduate student. The video is a little long. While it isn’t necessary to watch this video in order to progress through the next level, it is encouraged.