I recently presented my PhD at an early career researchers event in agriculture. Hence, I thought it would be apt to talk about my advice on presenting your research from my own experience.
1. Keep it simple
I have always found that the more complicated you make your slides and the more you have to say on each of them, the more likely it is that you lose your train of thought and become flustered. That’s not to say that your slides should be filled with writing and animation, but its better to spread key points across slides rather than trying to squeeze them onto one.
2. Decide what you want to say
Everyone has their own way of preparing for a presentation. Some people have key points on their slides to prompt them and then just talk about them more spontaneously, others prepare what they want to say for each slide and learn it. Try different approaches and find what works for you. I prefer to list the main points I want to include and practice saying them with each slide.
3. Think about your target audience
It is easy to get carried away in preparing nice slides without thinking about who is going to be looking at them. Are they fellow scientists in the same specialism as you? Are they non-scientists? Are they representatives from industry? Will there be a mixture of these people in the audience? This will help to frame what technical terms you use, how often, what depth you go into explaining them. The easier it is for your audience to understand your presentation, the more likely they are to remember it.
Preparing your presentation is 50% of the work. The other 50% is practicing the presentation so that you can deliver it with confidence and making the points you want to make. Also, practice beforehand with members of your research group who may be able to help in pointing out any errors on slides or topics that don’t fit in. Also, others might have suggestions on how to present data in a different way which might communicate the message you are trying to give more effectively – feedback is a great way to make improvements!
5. On the day preparation
Make sure you know where you are going, what time you are presenting and in what room. Turn up in plenty of time and make sure you always have an electronic copy of your presentation with you in case anything you might have sent in advance has problems. Try and get a good nights’ sleep beforehand and eat some breakfast – hungry and tired are not a good combination for an exciting presentation!
I think that covers most of what I think about when preparing to present. I always get nervous waiting to present so I find being prepared also helps me relax. I find that once I start talking I relax and start to enjoy the experience. It is also much easier to talk to others about your work when they have already seen you present it, so presenting does give you an advantage in networking. Ultimately, think of the positive outcomes of presenting and see it as an opportunity to develop your communication skills and meet new people.