CHI 2014: People's Choice Best Talk Awards

The People's Choice Best Talk Awards are meant to celebrate the very best of in-conference presentations. Did a presenter in the session go the extra mile, and make their talk genuinely interesting and informative? Did a speaker make you stop and think about something new? Did a presentation make an otherwise dull topic come alive? Nominate the speaker for a People's Choice Best Talk Award! It takes only a moment, and helps to reward those who spend the extra time to help make the conference truly memorable and extraordinary.

And The Winners Are...

We would like to congratulate the following 8 winners of the CHI 2014 People's Choice Best Talk Awards:

Vote for All Your Favorite Talks!

You may cast as may votes for talks as you wish, provided they don't occupy the same time slot (overlapping sessions are ok). Please, do not wait until the end of the conference to choose a single 'best'. Think of your votes as nominations for awards made to the best that the conference has to offer.

The People's Choice Best Talks are awarded by popular vote by attendees. Votes are cast using the mobile application or through the voting site. It takes only a few seconds to vote - vote now!

Recordkeeping & Privacy

To enhance the integrity of the voting process, we ask you to register each device using your voter ID. These ID's are generated at the time of your registration, can be found on the back of your badge, and are unique to each individual. Lists of votes are stored separately from names: those with access to the registration database can't see your votes, and those with access to the votes database can't see your name.

How to Win a Best Talk Award

The goal of the awards is to acknowledge those who take the time to craft a truly memorable presentation. There is no recipe for giving a great talk. In general, we recommend that you entertain, while being careful to not only present your own work, but also to situate it in the work you are building upon. The Guide to a Successful Presentation is a good place to start. Giving a truly outstanding talk will require additional punch: some tips for being extraordinary:

Risks can be rewarded

A wise man once said that "demos are for suckers". Including a live demo in your talk is high risk, but when successful the audience will truly appreciate it. Hedge by having a few videos ready to go.


CHI sessions are short. One way that speakers often pare their talks down is to skimp on "related work". This is not only ungracious, it is also dishonest. Rather than taking a sojourn through a related work slide, weaving it in to your talk as you go will not only save time, but it will properly position your work and demonstrate your mastery of the area.


One of the first things that new salespeople are taught is to sell benefits¸ not features. It can sometime be tempting to dive in and talk about the details of a technology, study, or other contribution. The very best speakers, however, will position their work in the context of the audience member. Why does your work matter? How will it make people healthier, happier, better educated, or richer? How does it expand human knowledge about the world and about ourselves? Why should we, the audience, care about your work?

Remember, toothpaste commercials aren't about toothpaste. They're not even about white teeth. They're about how great your life would be if you had whiter teeth. Selling your research isn't cynical - it's a genuine attempt to help the audience to understand the impact of your work.

Change things up

Talks often follow a rather predictable format. Changing things up will help the audience to engage. This might include asking for audience participation, including guests in your presentation, showing videos, including props, or speaking briefly in another language. The trick, of course, is to ensure that these fit with the talk, rather than simply acting as a gimmick.

Be gracious

Remember that your work would be impossible without financial, professional, and personal support. Throwing up an 'acknowledgements' slide for 5 seconds at the end of a talk could make you appear ungrateful. Take the time to properly thank the people who helped you to do your work, as well as the audience for their attention.

Polish your presentation

Attention to small details can go a long way. Videos should start with a press of a key, not require fumbling around with a mouse, and should certainly never require ALT+TAB to another application. Other pitfalls to avoid are not making videos or pictures full screen, leaving your mouse pointer on top of a video while it's playing, or using the mouse or laser pointer to emphasize a part of your slide (it should be pre-emphasized on the slide itself). Take the time to polish your presentation - the audience will thank you.

Use Presenter View

Keynote and PowerPoint both include modes where a special view is shown to the speaker which includes a timer, your speaker notes, a list of slides for easy random access, and a preview of which slides are coming up next. Learn to use this mode effectively. This will help you avoid cycling through slides, forgetting your speaker notes, or running out of time.

Speak with authority

Novice public speakers often make mistakes of inflection. The voice should rise in the middle of a statement, before falling at the end. Rising at the end makes your sentence sound like a question, and it makes you appear unsure of yourself. Another habit to avoid is sounding bored with your own material. Novices do this to try to de-emphasize some portion of the talk, or make it seem 'easy' - do this with your words, not your tone. If you sound bored with your own talk, how do you think the audience feels?

Practice, practice, practice

Someone who is great at something might appear to do it effortlessly. Don't be fooled: the best speakers practice their talks many, many times by, for example, visiting other venues, talking about their work to other members of their university or communities, and by speaking to members of their own lab. Iterative design is a basic tenet of HCI - it applies to your talk and research equally.

Special thanks to Sarah Williams from the Microsoft Surface Team for design of the People's Choice Best Talk Award logo.