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Effective Presentations

Why are so many presentations terrible?

unreadable example

Getting ready to present your research

Tips for creating a rapid-fire presentation:

How much time do you have? If it's 1-5 minutes, you'll need to distill your information down to the major highlights of your research. What does this look like?

  • Start with a quick "hook" story or a question.
  • Take your three most important points from your research - your research question, 1-2 sentences about how you conducted your research and what surprised or fascintated you about your results.
  • You can use a Powerpoint presentation to supplement your talk, but keep it to 2-5 slides. Your slides should be minimalist. Use images or single words rather than narrative text or bullet points to illustrate your talk.
  • Practice your presentation until you can say it without any notes. You only have to speak for a few minutes so memorize it! Once you have it memorized, it will be easier to make it sound natural.
  • During your presentation, make sure that you: dress professionally, make eye contact with the audience, do not pace around the room and do not read from your slides or notes.
  • Remember, everyone wants to see you succeed - so smile! You know your research very well and this is your opportunity to share it with your audience. 

General Presentation Advice

To begin:

  • Remember you are speaking to individuals not an abstract group
  • Be as relaxed as possible
  • Be conversational and make a connection with the room
  • Know your material
  • Prepare, but don't rehearse
  • Leave room for improvisation

The complete explanation of this list can be found at Presentation Zen and on Garr Reynold's site.

To Remember:

  • The first 30 seconds of your presentation will be the same amount of time your audience has taken to judge your overall presentation. Start your presentation strong and be prepared and ready to go. Technical issues should be taken care of before you begin.
  • Be aware of your audience's engagement in your presentation. A good speaker can change the pacing and tone of a presentation depending on the audience's engagement.
  • Check in with your audience. You are not alone in the room and you are speaking to each one of them individually.

For more from this list, 20 tips for better conference speaking.

During your presentation:

  • Never apologize
    Most people wouldn’t have noticed the issues for which you’re apologizing—and it just sounds lame.
  • For complex information use: Particular, General, Particular
    Give a particular specific example, then a general overview, followed by a repeat of the particular to reinforce the point.
  • Always provide a handout
    Text on paper can provide more information than verbal communication
  • Match your presentation to the level of The New York Times or Wall Street Journal
    Audiences don’t suddenly become dumber when they sit down to hear you speak—no reason to
    "dumb down" anything!
  • Audiences are precious: respect them
    Be clear—not simpleminded.
  • Humor—make sure it’s on point, not nasty or gratuitous
    It’s preferable to leave humor out if you risk alienating anyone—let alone the possibility of not being funny.
  • Do not use masculine pronouns—use plurals
    Even though it may not always be grammatically correct, you should say "they" instead of "him or her"
    and it will sound better—both because it’s shorter and because no one can be alienated.  Why risk not communicating simply because someone may be sensitive?
  • Show your enthusiasm!
    Don't hide behind a lectern. Use gestures. Walk around, directly engaging the audience.
    (If you’re not enthusiastic, why are you presenting on that topic?)
  • Innovate
    Don't be trapped by the conventional forms of the presentation. Be creative: find ways to take the presentation beyond a linear presentation of facts, and instead make it become something like a dialogue
    with your colleagues.
  • Drink enormous amounts of water
    Make sure that you have eaten and slept before your presentation.

For more examples from this list proceed to Presentation Tips.