Here are some presentation tips that I have used over the years. This post is also for me to put down my thoughts for safekeeping.
Tip #1: Who is your audience?
Your presentation should be tailored to your audience. Try to think about who it is you are talking to. The audience can span from colleagues, students, and the greater community. You should communicate in a way that your current audience can understand. Try to avoid using jargon or technical language with laypeople. Also, do not reuse the same presentation that you presented for a specific audience to a different audience. Your audience does not want to feel lost or unintelligent during your presentation.
Tip #2: Words, words, words.
Do not have slides filled with words. Often, audience members can get lost in a sea of words. I heard an anecdote where an audience member told the presenter that their talk distracts the audience from reading the slides.
You may also find yourself reading off your own slides and not facing the audience. If you have presenter mode, you may add some notes but ensure that you do not fall into the habit of just reading.
It is more engaging if you do not read off the slide but actually present while facing the audience. Rather than having too many words, use visuals. Generate graphics and flow charts that describe the message that you are presenting.
Tip #3: Consistency!
Be consistent in how you prepare your slides. Do not have different themes for each slide. Try to use a single theme and keep it simple. You want the audience to understand the science and not be distracted by changing colors, texts, or animations.
Tip #4: How do you engage your audience?
Your slides should be informative but also allow you to lead your audience. Add your conclusion or your take-home message as the title of each slide. This ensures the audience knows what to expect from each slide. Use a question for the end of the slide to transition to the next slide. For instance, you may ask, ‘Does Protein X do Action Y?,’ at the end of your slide. Then your next slide may be titled, ‘Protein X does action Y,’ and you can show your evidence why that is.
Tip #5: In Medias Res
In medias res storytelling is when you start your presentation in the middle of the story, preferably somewhere interesting, before returning to the beginning to explain how you came to be that point.
Just like how ‘The Iliad’ begins nearly ten years into the seige of Troy, before returning to describe the action prior, scientific presentations can easily be told in the same manner. For instance, your conclusion found that ‘Protein X does action Y in Z setting’. A middle point to this story could be how you observed ‘Protein X doing action Y’ but not knowing the context. You can use that as your opener and then explain why you study ‘Protein X’ before reaching your eventual conclusion.
Tip #6: Practice makes perfect.
Don’t wing it. If you want to be able to deliver your message well, practice! Practice what you will say so you will know what to say when the time comes. Practice your delivery and catch yourself when you use filler words, like ‘um’ and ‘you know’. Try to record your presentation if you can so you can see how the audience would perceive you.
Tip #7: Figures
Often, people re-use their figures from articles for presentations. This doesn’t always work because figures in articles are typically dense with extensive captions that readers can take their time to digest. Presentation figures need to be simpler and easy to interpret.
Tip #8: Timing
Bear in mind how much time that you have. Audience members can tell when you are rushing, which distracts from the presentation and can cause you to not communicate your message properly. Speak at a steady pace and if you feel nervous, take a breath and then continue.
Tip #8: Animations
Recent softwares have really enabled interactive presentations using animations. While animations can definitely enhance your presentation, it can also distract from it. Try not to have a blank slide where you appear text or figures. It is awkward to look at blank slide and even more awkward presenting with one. Unless you really need bullet points to appear one by one, it is better to have them all appear together. This way, you do not forget to click for it to occur while you speak.
Tip #9: Animations
When using laser pointers in rooms with multiple screens, don’t use it. In fact, stick to the on-screen pointer. One, the audience will be looking at different screens so they may not see your laser pointer. Two, some screens are LCD, which the laser pointer does not work on. Both cases will look awkward and confusing.
Tip #10: Ending your presentation
Some presenters have awkward endings where they trail off, or they say, ‘That’s it!’. A better way to end is to thank the audience for their attention and that this is the conclusion. Finally, you say, ‘Are there any questions?’