Creating a handout from beamer slides

I’m about to head off on a speaking tour to Europe (more on that in another post) and one of my hosts has asked for my powerpoint slides so they can print them. They have made two false assumptions: (1) that I use powerpoint; (2) that my slides are static so they can be printed.

Instead, I produced a cut-down version of my beamer slides, leaving out some of the animations and other features that will not print easily. Then I produced a pdf file with several slides per page. Continue reading →

Bare bones beamer

Beamer is far and away the most popular software for presentations amongst researchers in mathematics and statistics. Most conference and seminar talks I attend these days use beamer. Unfortunately, they all look much the same. I think people find beamer themes too hard to modify easily, so a small number of templates get shared around. Even the otherwise wonderful LaTeX Templates site has no beamer examples.

The beamer user guide explains how to make changes but it is not for the faint-hearted (although it is a fantastic resource once you have some expertise).

So I thought it might be useful to produce a very simple beamer template that is easy to extend and modify. Continue reading →

Making a poster in beamer

This week, I made my first poster. Although I’ve been an academic for more than 20 years, I’ve never had to make a poster before. Some of my coauthors have made posters about our joint research, and two of them have even won prizes (although I can’t take any credit for them). But this week, our department is displaying posters from all research staff about our recent work.

Here is my poster (click for pdf version):

It was done using beamer which turns out to be as good for posters as it is for slides. I used the beamerposter package which comes with a few themes. None of the themes were quite what I wanted, so I adapted one. Here it is in case anyone else wants to use it. I’ve also made a template based on the poster above.

LaTeX templates for Monash

I have updated my LaTeX templates for use at Monash so they no longer depend on HyTeX. Templates are provided for producing a working paper and a PhD thesis in the Department of Econometrics & Business Statistics at Monash University. People at other universities are welcome to adapt the templates for their own institutions.

Giving a research seminar

An expanded version of this post is available in my article on “Giving an academic talk”.


With conference season almost upon us, it is timely to discuss what makes a good conference presentation. Here is a suggested structure.

  1. A motivating example demonstrating the problem you are trying to solve.
  2. Explain existing approaches to the problem and their weaknesses.
  3. Describe your main contributions.
  4. Show how your ideas solve the problem/example you started with.

That won’t necessarily work for every talk, but it is a good place to start. In particular, beginning with a motivating example is much better than setting up the problem algebraically.

Further suggestions:

  • Use beamer with this template.
  • Use a maximum of 20 slides for a 20 minute conference presentation.
  • Assume the audience knows about what you did at the start of your research in this area. That is, probably not much. You can assume standard material taught to undergraduates (regression, ARIMA models, etc.), but don’t assume they already know what you have spent long hours learning on your own.
  • Give only the most necessary mathematical details. People do not quickly absorb mathematical equations so don’t give any more than you have to. Never give proofs.
  • When you do include some algebra, define all terms used. Why make the audience guess?
  • Use graphs instead of tables where possible.
  • Where possible, let the graph fill the slide. The command \fullwidth{file} is useful.
  • Use \begin{block}...\end{block} to highlight equations or important information.
  • Use \structure{...} to highlight headings on slides.
  • Do not use equation numbering, figure numbering, etc. The listeners can’t go back and see which one you are referring to.
  • At the bottom of the last slide, give your website or email address for people to contact you if they want to read the paper or download your R code.
  • Go through all your slides and see what you can remove. Less text is better.
  • Go through all your slides again and check that the titles are emphasizing the right thing. Fix them where necessary.
  • Go through all your slides again just to make sure you can’t see anything that could be improved.
  • Read Jonathan Shewchuk’s advice on giving an academic talk.
  • Practise. Out loud. Standing up. Using a data projector.

Using beamer

After you’ve done a presentation or two based on the template provided above, you will probably want to learn more about beamer and what it can do. A good place to start is Norm Matloff’s quick tutorial. But eventually, you will have to knuckle down and read the beamer user guide. (OK, it is too long and rather complicated. But at least read some of it.)

Some of the comments above assume that you have installed the Hytex theme from the file as explained on my LaTeX page.