Preparing your research for a presentation can be harrowing. Whether it’s a weekly lab group meeting, a departmental event, or a presentation at a national conference, there are 5 things that you can do to make your next talk engage your audience and communicate your research to them.
Tell a story. Even if you think your research is as cut and dried as could possibly be, somewhere in there is a story waiting to be told. In general a research story should have four parts:
Introduction - [about you and your interests, the 'why']
Method - [your process, the ‘how’]
Results - [what you learned]
Conclusion/Summary - [next steps].
People are hardwired to pay attention to and respond to stories. If you talk for 20 minutes on figures and charts, and tell an anecdote about what happened in the lab for 1 minute, your audience will come away remembering the anecdote. Work your figures and charts into your research story.
Try to avoid slides full of dense equations. If you know your audience came for these slides, then keep them in there. But if you do, make sure you highlight the key variables and tell the story of how it affected you at the bench.
Body language. Use hand gestures, pause, and make eye contact. It'll draw your viewers in. Though you may feel ridiculous, practicing in front of a mirror makes a huge difference and will build up your confidence. You will discover if you are presenting openly, or have “closed” body language. You will also see if you have any nervous tics that you weren’t even aware of! Though this can be scary at first, you can’t fix what you can’t see. Take a deep breath, assume a “power pose” with straight back, and speak with authority.
Compare and contrast your research to the literature for context and credibility. If your audience is knowledgeable in the field, you can give them a starting point for appreciating your new work by referencing work that came before.
Polish. A professionally designed presentation goes a long way. Too many presentations rely on slides that are amateur looking or too dense. We know that when you’re preparing your talk, you want to focus on your research and not on fonts and layout. We suggest using a good template that’s designed for a scientific presentation. To help you out, we’ve created one that is free to use. Use the button below to get your copy.
Good luck to you on your next presentation!