As regular readers of this blog know, I have been attending several conferences over the past few weeks. This has given me an intensive insight into how to give a good presentation, whether it’s at a conference or at an interview. So, read on for some helpful tips!
It is surprising how many seasoned academics are poor public speakers. I am not trying to claim to be the world’s best orator, but I certainly try to make my presentations pleasurable to listen to as well as informative. The main pitfalls are: poor volume, too much speed, lack of eye contact and poor use of visual material.
Volume: do not rely on having microphones that will work, learn how to project your voice yourself. You should be able to lecture to a room full of c. 100 people without a microphone easily, the same goes for conference presentations. Nerves can make us speak quietly, so concentrate on maintaining an even but clear volume.
Speed: if you speak to fast you will lose your audience almost immediately. It takes listeners’ brains a second or two to catch up with what you have said. Allow pauses at the end of your sentences and speak much slower that you would do in standard speech.
Eye contact: many people read conference papers from a full script (i.e. every word written out, not merely a series of notes). However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t maintain eye contact with your audience. This is partly connected to pace: don’t speak so fast and allow time to raise your eyes from the page and engage your listeners.
Visual material: audiences appreciate illustrative material on slides, OHPs or powerpoint, but then remember not to turn your back on your audience by talking to the screen! You don’t need to look at your image: you need to look at your audience.
These are very simple tips and will not affect the content of your talk, but they will certainly improve your audience understanding and appreciation of your efforts.