Making presentations engaging for an audience can be a challenge. Richard Threlfall, Managing Editor, Asian Journal of Organic Chemistry, gives you some tips on how to design your slide show, step into the spotlight, and take questions.
As with posters, the first and most important thing to think about is who the audience for your talk is going to be. A talk for an audience of students is not going to be the same as one for an audience at a conference, so make sure you present the content at a level that should be understandable to the average member of the audience. This also includes thinking about the relative expertise of the audience. Are they mostly going to be familiar with the background to your topic, or is it worth devoting a few more slides to explaining the context of your work?
Framing your work in an understandable way is the key to keeping the attention of the audience.
Break your content up into a number of small sections according to the allotted time of the talk. Smaller sections are easier for you to manage from a time perspective because it’s easier to keep track of how fast you’re going if you have section breaks as timing points.
A good method is to make an overview slide with every section of your talk on it. Show this slide at the beginning of each section with the current section highlighted. This gives the audience an easy way to follow your story and to see how each section fits in with the next.
Many people suggest a rate of one slide per minute, which is fine as a general guideline. Do remember that many people tend to speak faster when nervous or under pressure, so having a few more slides than minutes is generally a good strategy. Having more content that you can fit in is better than having not enough to fill the time!
Prepare a couple of answer slides for the questions section, that is, try to think of questions that are likely to come up and make slides for those that you think may require some in-depth explanation. Even if the slides aren’t totally relevant to any questions that you’re asked, you will still have the answers you’ve prepared to go with the slides in your mind, and they may be adaptable for answering a range of different questions.
Lastly, be careful with trying to incorporate jokes into your presentation! Only if you are sure that a joke will get a laugh from the audience you are addressing and you can deliver it confidently should you attempt verbal humor.
On the other hand, cartoons can be useful to elicit some giggles from the audience, but again, only if you are sure that the cartoon is understandable for the majority of the audience. What you don’t want is the humor to fall flat and the joke to be on you!
- Next month: Presentation Tips: Designing Your Slides (2)
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