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Posts Tagged ‘presentation’

17 February 2014  |  Posted in Presentation aspects, Research Promotion  |  Comment on this post »

During a research presentation there will often be times when a conclusion needs to be supported by a complicated set of experimental results. For example, elucidating a mechanism may have required a series of experiments to rule out a long list of alternative processes, finally leaving only the one mechanism which was consistent with the findings. In such a situation the listeners can easily become confused, distracted, or bored. One technique which increases the clarity of the presentation and saves time may seem counterintuitive at first glance—begin at the end.

Suppose you have a conclusion which is supported by a complicated set of evidence. You could go step by step through the evidence, ruling out alternatives along the way and presenting the only consistent explanation at the end. But along the way your listeners will be in the dark about the outcome and will not be sure where this will lead. Each new possible hypothesis will engage their attention momentarily, but only until it is discarded. On the other hand if you start at the end, everything becomes clear. You say in effect, “Here is the mechanism we favor. It is supported by the following findings.” Now the supporting data is presented, all of which is consistent with the mechanism proposed. For example, “The mechanism requires second order kinetics. Therefore we conducted the following experiment which showed that the kinetics were in fact second order.” With each finding the mechanism is more firmly placed in the listener’s minds. Alternative mechanisms are mentioned, but only briefly, since they are not consistent with the evidence.

The technique of beginning at the end also saves time. If each alternative mechanism is discussed in detail before being discarded, the presentation takes longer. Also, when the correct mechanism is finally presented the speaker generally feels obliged to sum up the reasons why alternatives were inconsistent, if effect presenting the evidence twice.

When I was a graduate student we were required to give a fifty minute presentation in our third year summarizing our research up to that point. My rehearsal took two hours. My adviser gave me the tip about beginning at the end when presenting mechanistic details and I made the change in my final presentation. This time I finished in less than an hour.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

20 November 2013  |  Posted in Presentation aspects, Research Promotion  |  Comment on this post »

Good visual support material is essential when giving a research presentation. No one would think of giving a scientific lecture without a set of Vu-graphs to support the words with pictures. Unfortunately, badly designed visual aids do nothing to enhance understanding and can even confuse and distract the audience. Here are some of the most important elements of effective visuals.

Less is more
Inexperienced presenters tend to put too much material on a slide. But the human mind can only take in so much information at one time. A slide with twenty bullet items will be overwhelming to a viewer: it is too complex; it cannot be comprehended as a unit. As written reference material such a slide may have value, but as a visual aid during a lecture it is useless. Break up printed slides into bite sized pieces: five bullets are fine; eight are usually too many. Fifteen? Forget it.

Crowded slides are also hard to read. A bizarre but all too common scene is watching a presenter display an “eye chart” of a slide, realize that no one can read it, apologize and proceed to develop his argument around it. When creating visuals, follow the two meter rule. If you can’t read them this far from the computer screen, your audience won’t be able to read them from their seats.

There is a place for complicated slides. A long reaction sequence may be effectively presented in one slide—if the structures and print are legible and if the sequence follows a logical order. Drawings are easier to take in than printed words (if they are well drawn!), and the effect here is of building a structure piece by piece. Each step of the reaction sequence stands on its own as an understandable unit but is also part of the overall story told by the slide.

Tell Them and Show Them
The headings of a slide are important to reinforce the speaker’s words. Each heading should summarize what’s shown on the slide. Instead of writing a vague, “NMR Data” write “NMR Data Indicates Vicinal Hydrogens.”

Modern word processing programs give the presenter an almost unlimited choice of visual devices: color fonts, animated fonts, fade in/ fade out of slides, catchy backgrounds, photo insertion, video insertion. Well used, these techniques can increase a presentation’s effectiveness. Badly used, they can detract from it. A slide with a background displaying waves crashing on a beach may be striking, but printed words may be unreadable when they overlap the white of the foaming crests. And the background may be so dramatic that it’s distracting. I love videos and photos that illustrate a speaker’s words. I don’t care for vibrating, florescent captions that serve no purpose. When tempted to use a special effect ask yourself, does this add to the understanding of the material? If in doubt, take it out.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

20 October 2010  |  Posted in Conference material  |  Comment on this post »

Once you have gained control of your materials and practiced in steps 1 and 2, you can focus your full awareness on each moment of your presentation to truly give your audience the best possible experience. Live the principle, “Be here now,” and your audience will be there with you.

Step 3: Use this time-honored approach to making your presentation meaningful to your audience:

  1. Introduce yourself and your topic – build rapport with your audience and establish your credibility. Use a story or anecdote, a tasteful and relevant joke, or one attention-getting word, fact, or statistic.
  2. State your message – identify your specific goal. “At the end of our session, I hope that you will … [know] [understand] [do, take action].” Tell your audience, “We’ll be together for [## minutes], and we’ll use [##] of those minutes for [questions and answers, or discussion, or an activity in which you participate], so let’s get started.”
  3. Briefly tell the story of your involvement with the topic – why you care, how you became involved, what important results are for the research and applied communities. Reiterate your specific goal for what they take away from your presentation.
  4. Hit the highlights – introduce the main points you’re going to elaborate on.
  5. Elaborate on those points – use stories, examples, demonstrations. Remember, your allotted time may permit you to discuss only the major details, but you can hand out a more lengthy paper at the end.
  6. Lead up to the conclusion – help your audience think their way to the specific goal or impact you identified in step 2.
  7. Clinch your goal – state the conclusion you want the audience to reach or the action you want them to take.
  8. Engage them in a dialog or activity related to your research. At least, initiate a question and answer period. If time allows, have them take a sample of a survey used in your research or encourage them to discuss a point for further research in small groups and then have a member of each group tell the entire audience what they thought. Practice with colleagues how long this may take and leave time for it.
  9. Wrap it up with thanks – make your closing statement, usually a reiteration of your specific goal, and thank the audience for their participation with your wishes for their own successful research projects. Offer your contact information if you want to invite further questions or collaboration opportunities.
  10. Get written feedback – during your wrap up, distribute a one-page evaluation form with statements of the key elements of your presentation, each with check-boxes on the effective-to-ineffective or ‘loved it’-to-‘hated it’ or ‘totally agree’-to-‘totally disagree’ spectrum. Tell the audience you care about their response to your topic and ask them to complete the evaluation. Allow audience members the choice of handing you the form or placing it on a table anonymously on their way out.

What do you think? Please share your comments.

18 October 2010  |  Posted in Conference material  |  Comment on this post »

Whether this is your first presentation at a professional conference or your twentieth, showing your research to an audience of your peers can be intimidating. Everyone feels “butterflies in my stomach,” even the most experienced speaker. My advice is: Embrace your butterflies! Envision them keeping you energized during your presentation. The tips in the first two of three “Professional Speaker” steps below will help you prepare thoroughly and engage your audience’s interest effectively so your butterflies work for you. The third step, in the next blog, contains tips for delivering your presentation.

Step 1: Prepare Thoroughly. Of course, you know your material, but preparing to share it with others means you have to give some thought to why they should care.

1. Write your specific goal, a statement that begins, “I want my audience to … [know] [understand] [do something, take action].” If you focus on your audience’s interest, you’ll worry less about your own nervousness.

2. Based on your goal, the audience profile, and time limit determine …

  • How you can relate to them: Are they fellow researchers or in professions that apply your research, or some of each?
  • How to show them that your subject is important for them: Ask for a show of hands of people who are researching related topics right now or plan to soon, or ask each person to briefly write down their primary point of interest in your topic as a basis for questions at the end.
  • Your main points (on the slides) and supporting details (in your talk), what to keep in the presentation within the time limit and which details you can hand out afterward.
  • Any stories you can tell to make your points come alive for your audience.
  • Visual media for support – PowerPoint slides, posters, pictures, flip charts, etc.
  • Hand-outs – what you distribute at the beginning (the printed “Notes Pages” or “Handout” version of your slides) to help the audience take notes and follow along; what you distribute during the speech for impact at the moment; what you distribute at the end, such as an evaluation form.

Step 2: Practice Making your Presentation while Motivated by the Presenter’s Mind-set

Rehearse in front of a mirror or with a trusted colleague or two. Either way, you’ll get feedback, polish your content and delivery, learn where to speed up or reduce content to meet the time limit … and gain confidence.

Keep these attitudes in mind –

  • I’m focused on my goal for the audience’s information or action.
  • I want to show the audience how my topic relates to their concerns.
  • I am drawing a map for the audience to understand the path of logic I followed in my research through my presentation so they reach the conclusion I want them to reach.
  • I will use language tailored to the audience’s sophistication about my topic.

Step 3 will be posted soon!

What do you think? Please share your comments.

27 September 2010  |  Posted in Presentation aspects, Review Criteria  |  Comment on this post »

Peer Review can be a puzzling and many a times, frustrating process for researchers, even experienced ones. Peer review, which is expected to be an objective exercise, can never completely be free of subjectivity, due to its very nature. Further, the intricacies involved may make it difficult to comprehend various aspects of the process. The attached presentation highlights some of the criteria used for evaluating scientific manuscripts, including:

(1) Overall Research Considerations

(2) Evaluation of Presentation Aspects

(3) Assessment of Description of Research

Please view the presentation below for more details.

The next post will describe how a typical referee report about a manuscript is put together using the above mentioned evaluation criteria.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

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