- Who are your audience – aim the talk at them, what will interest them? Make your story relevant to the audience (see below)
- Show some enthusiasm; it can energise the atmosphere
- Face the audience and look at them all (not one person)
- Always stand when speaking as it helps projection of your voice and you are more visible to the audience
- Move around if it helps you relax, and some movement helps engage the audience
- Aim for a relaxed, open, confident posture; some people recommend stretching and breathing exercises before a talk
- hand gestures are good but do not overdo them or they may distract
- Speak to back of room and control pace of delivery (we may speak faster when nervous), louder and slower than in normal speech
- Alter the pace (tone, timing) of the presentation to emphasise key points and cover straightforward background material quickly
- Avoid bad habits (e.g. umm’s, repeated hand behaviour)
- Practice what you will say so your words are clear and concise, and the timing is right
- Some humour is good, but not too much and keep it appropriate for the audience (no jokes that only close colleagues will understand), and never appear flippant
- use engaging words, like simple questions, imagine, remember, personalisation (I, you)
- No PowerPoint karaoke! Never read your slides, the audience can read them faster than you can speak. Slides rarely need to have complete sentences because they are there to illustrate and support what you say.
- Question time – keep answers brief and to the point, reply to the audience – avoid conversation with one person
- Minimise use of the laser pointer. Do not let it dance around the slides.
- The audience is interested in what new findings or comments you have, so keep the introduction and methods brief, get to the novel aspects quickly
- Get the audience interested early on by posing questions you will answer, a sense of suspense and anticipation keeps the audience’s attention
- Make it personal, say what you or a colleague did and found, and tell the story from that perspective
- Questions are more engaging than null hypotheses (to most people)
- Do not apologise or make excuses for challenges and study limitations; rather state them upfront as the reason for the approach used, or state what you learned from the experience and would be a better approach in the future; we can learn from failures.
- Scientific presentations tend to follow the ‘logos‘ (thought) rather than the ‘pathos‘ (drama) format. But consider some drama by introducing special problems somebody (the character in your story) had and how they were overcome (the happy ending).
- If speaking for more than 5-10 min, introduce layout of presentation and summarise it at end
- Have a storyboard (plan) memorised, and written down in case you forget or lose track, e.g. why – how – what found – what it means.
- Do not be afraid to pause and check your storyboard or notes before continuing
- Tell the audience when you are reaching, or on, the last slide or statement, so they know when you are finished. Alternatively, do not ask the audience to read the last slide as the conclusion, but move in front of the slide and state it. Thanking the audience for listening makes it clear you are finished.
- The first slide should have your name, co-authors and affiliation, the last either the conclusion or acknowledgements; some presenters like to cover acknowledgements after the first slide so the talk ends with the conclusion that then leads better into questions
- Graphic and images should add to the presentation, not distract from it
- Graphs, diagrams and images are good, sentences bad (paragraphs worse)
- Explain axes on slides
- Each slide should have one to three points, more than five is too much
- Use few (preferably only one kind), if any, and simple transitions between slides.
- Minimise clutter (e.g. repeated text and logos), decoration or complex background images on slides
- Click to see how reducing clutter and colour improves clarity
- Do not irritate your audience with tables with lots of text or text on graphs that is too small to easily read (this is depressingly common)
- Never put more text on a slide than would be printed on an easily read T-shirt!
- Full sentences are not necessary, just keywords and phrases
- Keep text font style simple, bold, large, and minimise variation in styles
- Consider using the “six by six” rule – never use a slide that has more than six bullet points, and each line should have no more than six words
- Never put more on a slide than is necessary – the best slides are those that are not quite complete and rely on the presenter to complete the picture
- Do not use UPPER CASE letters as they are difficult to read; use Upper/lower case
- Try to use a dark background with light-coloured text, yellow, orange and white on dark blue is very effective
- Never combine red, blue or green text and backgrounds
- Fonts used should not be smaller than 24 point
- Text on graphs should be horizontal to be easy to read, not vertical.
- Read words backwards to check for spelling errors
- Fonts “with feet” are easier to read (in a paragraph)
- Fonts “without feet” make nice titles
- Limit indents to two, and not more than three
Please make your own suggestions and add links to resources below
More advice on how to make a presentation in this video http://stanford.io/2M1rxOs
How to start and finish a talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w82a1FT5o88
SCIENTIFICALLY SPEAKING: Tips for Preparing and Delivering Scientific Talks and Using Visual Aids from The Oceanography Society at https://tos.org/scientifically-speaking
I have always thought we should get advice from Actors about how to give talks. Here is some good advice from somebody who trains TED Speakers, on how to prepare and deliver a talk – exercise your throat and lungs before hand (breath!) – give the audience your full attention (not the slide screen or your notes) – include stories to capture audience’s attention – make it personal (emotional connections) – how to use props.
The perils of pie charts, only useful when less than 5 categories, not good for comparing variables (use X Y plots). Can be useful on maps but generally not needed in scientific papers because they can be summarised in one sentence. More points against pie charts here.
Cartoons are a great way to convey a key message with humour, and make it more memorable. Here is a collection of biodiversity cartoons from ConservationBytes.com
Stunning free to use marine life and environment images available here https://www.theoceanagency.org/ocean-image-bank
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