Last week I attended a digital journalism conference in London which had an impressive line-up of national and international journalists and technologists from organisations including Buzzfeed, Twitter, the Guardian, BBC and Mashable.
One of the things that struck me the most about many of the speakers were their excellent use of presentation slides – which on reflection should not be surprising at a conference focused on technology and communication.
However all too often conference slides, particularly those used by academics, are not used to their best effect and can distract from, rather than aid the speaker.
As a result I have put together these tips on using effective conference slides:
- Be aware of the time limit
Most conference presentations are 15 to 20 minutes so stick to the allocated time and make sure you are rehearsed so you don’t over run and end up rushing vital pieces of information or making the chair anxious to wrap you up. Think three minutes per slide so a 15 minute presentation would be around 5 slides.
- Remember who your audience is
This is a conference presentation and not a lecture. You are not trying to convey a large amount of information to a clean slate, as you would do to students. This is a well-informed, well read audience who know the theory and background already.
- Use strong visuals
Make sure your slides are not text heavy and have strong visuals. The best slides I have seen in recent years were a series of Lego images which intrigued the audience and made them listen all the harder to understand the relation between the image and words.
- Minimise theory, maximise results
Chances are most of the audience will have a good idea of the literature so there is no point going over this in great detail. Outline it very briefly but then get to the bit they are really there to hear – your research and your findings. All too often the most interesting bit – the results – are left to one last slide rather than being the bulk of the presentation.
- Keep the text factual
Use minimal text and keep it to key statistics, quotes and try to display it in a more visual way such as a graph, infographic or even humorous image if appropriate.
- Keep it light
Conferences are fascinating, inspiring events but they are also bum-numbing, long days. You want to keep your audience interested – and awake – particularly if you are speaking after a big, heavy lunch. A little bit of light relief will be a welcome change for your audience and sometimes quirky images are the best way to do this.
- Be aware of copyright
If you are using images make sure you have copyright permission to use them. It It is best to take your own photos, use photos with a creative commons licence (try Flickr) or gain permission from the copyright holder. In each case it is good etiquette to credit the copyright holder.
- Give paper and contact information
It is likely that those interested in your research will want to know if you have a paper published on the subject or have one pending. Give the audience this information instead of leaving them hanging. Also make sure you include your contact details (email and Twitter handle) on a slide (preferably at the bottom/top of each one) and give people enough time to write it down. Conferences are all about networking after all.
- List full references
Good academic practice but sometimes easy to forget in a presentation. Save the last or penultimate slide for full references allowing the audiences to delve into the subject matter in more detail in their own time.
10. Share your slides
Increasingly academics are using sites like Slideshare to upload their conference presentations rather than taking individual requests to email them to various people. Alternatively you could embed them on your own website or blog. Either way make sure you let people know they are available by tweeting a link to them and using the conference hashtag.
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