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SCMB Postgraduate Fora 2009 How (not) to present a talk

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  1. SCMB Postgraduate Fora 2009How (not) to present a talk Arti Singh On behalf of the SCMB Postgraduate Students Committee 15th October 2009

  2. An example http://subjunctive.net/klog/2007/09/chicken/ (or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yL_-1d9OSdk) Doug Zongker, University of Washington Presented at a meeting of the American Society for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), February 2007

  3. Purpose of a talk • give an overview of a topic • present a summary of your work • engage and inform/entertain your audience • tell a story • present information in a limited amount of time

  4. Slides • time limit = limited number of slides • Postgraduate Symposium: 15 min + 5 min Q&A • guide: ~1 slide/minute; 15 min talk: 15-20 slides • don’t have too much information on a slide • use dot points and figures/equations/flowcharts • if its not important, leave it out (eg. details) • practice, practice, practice!

  5. Fonts • easy to read eg. Arial, NOT Comic Sans MS (NB. Times New Roman may not always display correctly and can be difficult to read) • don’t use more than 1 or 2 different fonts – be consistent • large enough to read (eg. 26 point), smaller for references (eg. 10 point) • avoid all capital letters (= yelling; difficult to read) • avoid title case (eg. How to present a talk, NOT How To Present A Talk) • emphasis: use italics and bolding instead of underlining

  6. Pictures • whenever possible, use pictures, graphs, equations, chemical structures instead of words • don’t use ClipArt just for the sake of it • make sure they are large enough! • make sure they are clear – avoid ‘chart junk’ (eg. grey backgrounds, grid lines, too much axis detail) • label graph lines directly instead of using legends

  7. too small! good size, but too many distractions

  8. simpler, less distracting = more effective in a talk

  9. Colours • use contrasting colours • simple backgrounds are better • light background, darker writing/figures • dark background, lighter/brighter writing/figures • don’t use too many colours on a slide – distracting • use colour to highlight/code things • avoid using red and green together (inability to distinguish them = most common form of colourblindness) • blue and yellow can be problematic for some people (try to avoid yellow writing on bright blue background)

  10. Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important! • Contrast is important!

  11. Animation & sound • some animation can be useful – emphasis, highlighting, explaining a process or results • too much is distracting & wastes time • sound – useful if it is a part of your research (eg. animals, communication) • may not always be able to play sound in your presentation room

  12. Talking to an audience • know your audience – specialists? non-specialists? • talk to the audience, don’t read out slides/notes • maintain eye contact, don’t talk to the board • laser pointer: don’t point at audience • don’t fidget, put your hands in your pockets, shift your feet, chew gum, play with your hair etc • pace yourself – don’t talk too fast or too slowly • don’t be monotonous, make gestures • make the audience care about what you have to say

  13. Key points • Limited amount of time to tell your story = limited number of slides • Summary of your work – not too many details, overall picture – what and why • use contrasting colours for backgrounds and writing/figures, fonts that can be easily read, figures/flow charts/equations • make your slides as simple as possible – not too much animation • voice, gestures, don’t read slides, talk to audience, eye contact, engage audience • make audience care about your work and what you have to say • practice, practice, practice!