Five Pís to a Poised and Perfect Presentation



First consider
How much time you will have available for the actual talk (plan on leaving 15-20% of stated time slot for questions)   What audiovisual equipment will be available (especially if talk is "in the field" or not in the US)   What kind of audiovisual aids will be expected (depends on field, site, type of presentation)   What the background of your audience will be   Donít get too technical for a general audience   Select or pitch your material to match the interests of the audience   What the room might be like (assume the worst)

KISS (Keep It Sharp and Simple)

Focus and organization are even more critical than in written work

Be very selective in the material you present
Tell a good story and keep to the plot

Acknowledge the work of others

Remember: a talk is not a written paper read out loud  
Emphasis in most talks is on rationale and objectives, results (especially), conclusions, and future work

Organization usually follows that of written paper of the same type

Methods are less detailed than in a written paper, and more woven into the results

Transitions are more necessary

Repetition is more acceptable; listeners will need reminders of things youíve already said

Slides must be simple, easy to read, and legible from a distance

Use high-contrast text/background (black text on white, white text on blue, best quality photos)

Choose colors visible to the color-blind

  Use a consistent design (same background, same color or symbol/treatment throughout   Minimize text; set up as bulleted/highlighted statements, 24 points or larger, easy-to read font   Design the slide to project to the center of the screen (many screens are too small to show very tall or very wide slides)   Tables and figures should illustrate one to a few points only; you might build a complex figure one curve at a time in a series of slides, until you have all the curves on one graph, or present several short tables, then a summary table   Figures especially may have titles on top that would not appear in a written publication

Preparing I (in advance)

Set up slides in slide tray; mark top right-hand corner with number; lock slides in; (bring your own tray, if possible)

Bring a laser pointer, a small battery-operated light, and a timekeeper with large numbers

Make large-print note cards/sheets and/or full size originals of slides

Practicing Practice several times   Videotape and critique yourself   Think about/enact what you might do if a problem arises (projectionist drops and scrambles the slides; projector jams; light blows; power goes out)   Keep track of your time

Practice at least once in conditions as close to "real" as possible

Practice out loud   Use your real slides and notes   Use whatever equipment you think youíll have: microphone, projector control, lectern   Donít turn the microphone on if you think you may not have one at the venue   Have an audience at least once   Spot the audience around the room, especially in the back   Ask for a frank critique, including voice quality and volume, distracting mannerisms   Ask your audience to throw you the most difficult, potentially embarrassing questions they can think of
Previewing Check out the room and facilities   Whatís the conformation of the room?   How will lights be handled?   Is there a microphone?   Who controls the slide projector?   Is there a lectern?   Will you be able to see your notes?   Will the room be dark enough for your slides?   Preview your slides  
Preparing II (right before) Rest, Refuel, and Relax   Prepare mentally for an infinite variety of distractions   Remember that youíve already come up with solutions to most potential problems, and you can handle the rest   [Introduce yourself to the moderator at the earliest opportunity]   [Provide moderator or host with material for introduction, if necessary]   [Give your slides (marked with your name and talk) to the projectionist]

[Lay out what you need (including water) in advance, if you can]



Convey the EXCITEMENT and PROMISE of your work   Talk to the audience   Establish eye contact with various members   Watch for general reaction; adjust as necessary   Keep your poise and sense of humor, no matter what   Speak distinctly and a little more slowly than usual (especially with a microphone)   Move around casually, if possible Watch out for nervous mannerisms (including speech mannerisms, sighing) or pacing
If you move, donít get out of range of the microphone or block the screen
Use your slides and notes as cue cards

Sound as conversational as possible

  Donít read the talk (If you must read, make it sound like youíre not reading, and maintain frequent eye contact with the audience)   Deal with questions calmly and with enthusiasm Ask the questioner to repeat, if necessary, or repeat the question as you understand it   You are allowed a few seconds to think   "I donít know" (or, "itís unknown", if you know thatís so) can be the best answer   Some possible responses (put together as appropriate; use with discretion) Thatís a very interesting/ good questionÖ
Iím glad you asked thatÖ
We considered that, but didnít do it becauseÖ
I didnít have time to discuss that, but (bit of detail)Ö
Weíre working on that (bit of detail)
Weíd like to look at that/weíve applied for funding
Thatís extremely interesting, butÖ
Itís outside the focus of our research effort
Like all methods, this has its limitations; we used it becauseÖ
Thank the audience for their attention Go partake of refreshments!
Resources   COF Lundeen Lab (FMC)   Toastmasters International   ACS Style Guide: A Manual for Authors and Editors. 1997. Janet S. Dodd, Ed. American Chemical Society, Washington, DC (Chap. 12 is most pertinent to this subject, but the manual is a good reference overall and has material on poster presentations as well.)   How to Teach Scientific Communication. 1998. F. Peter Woodford. Council of Biology Editors, Reston, VA. (This also has materials on all aspects of scientific communication).   Slide design: (look under workshops: Getting it Visual)