Tips for Presenters
Where appropriate, it is helpful to answer these simple questions early in the presentation:
What did you do?
Why did you do it?
Where did you do it?
How did you do it?
What did you find?
Remember, the nature of your research and your motivation for doing it may not be clear to your audience, and if it is not they may not be too interested in the rest. Also remember that most of the audience will not be knowledgeable in your field, so avoid jargon, acronyms, and the like. If you must use technical terms, define them.
If you decide to make a poster
Poster presentations are designed to convey information graphically through the use of illustrations, photographs, graphs, tables, and charts. Text should be minimized for maximum impact on your audience, i.e. do not simply enlarge written material and "post it"! Although sometimes necessary, virtually no one will read lengthy sections of formal text. Consider outlining or emboldening the main elements. A person casually "reading" your poster should be able to identify the salient points of your research without reading too intently. Omit the details of experimental procedures, research methodologies, data analyses, and so forth that require complicated and lengthy explanations. These details can be relegated to verbal discussions with those interested.
Your poster should be logically organized with the appropriate sections (e.g., introduction, methods, results...) clearly distinguished. Design your poster to "flow"; that is, the reader should know where it begins, and how to proceed to the end in the correct order. Numbers on different panels or arrows are but two ways to guide your audience. When present, the author might ask to take the reader through the presentation.
For detailed information on how to construct an effective poster and information on using the large glossy printer, click HERE for Keith Brugger's Tips or THERE for Jeff Ratcliff-Crain's comments.
If you decide to give an oral presentation
Preparing an oral presentation is not the same as writing a paper. Your audience does not have the luxury of going back to review something you said earlier, nor can they consult a dictionary. With this in mind, the following suggestions are offered as a guide to improving your presentation.
In preparing your talk, remember the simple but effective strategy of "Tell them what you are going to tell them (introduction), tell them (body of the talk), and then tell them what you told them (conclusion)."
A good introduction will grab the audienceís attention. It should also present the thesis of the talk in a sentence or two. Likewise it should present a brief overview of your presentation, i.e. what the talk will cover.
Avoid detailed discussions of the historical perspective of your research (unless its absolutely necessary), standard research methodologies and data analyses. These aspects can be briefly(!) summarized so you can concentrate on your findings - your analyses, results, and conclusions. This is, after all, a presentation of your research and not a review of otherís work.
Keep your talk simple. Speakers generally can not present a coherent and well-organized discussion of more than a few main points in 15 minutes. Nor can audiences assimilate many more than that.
Speak to your audience- in terms of the level of, and vocabulary used in, the presentation, and your demeanor and body language. Address the audience by speaking conversationally. Gesture and move naturally. Donít pace or make exaggerated movements. Look at the audience - not at the podium or screen.
Visuals should be neat, simple, clearly labeled, and large enough to be seen at the back of the room (see suggestions above for poster presentations). Graphics are worthless if only the people in the front row can see them. Keep in mind that transparencies and slides made directly (photocopied) from other work are usually too small and often do not reproduce well. Avoid using "busy" backgrounds and gimmicky effects in PowerPoint presentations as these are distracting. When creating slides, whether for PowerPoint or conventional photographic (or transparencies) consider the following:
(1) For slides and digital images use a darker background with light lettering; for overheads use a light background with dark lettering.
(2) Avoid using patterns (e.g., lines, stipples), use solid colors.
(3) when using color shading, pastels are usually better than primary colors.
(4) There must be enough contrast to distinguish between the various elements in your art (e.g., text and background shading) but extreme ("vibrant") contrast might be hard on the eyes.
(5) For text slides, use large sizes (no less than 14-18 pt) of a "crisp and clean" font style; avoid drop shadows, outlines, or embossed text; (6) Be brief and to the point on text slides (outline or "bullet" your main points) no one will read a paragraph of text on a slide, nor should you! and finally, (7) Do not use too many slides! A rough rule-of-thumb is 1 slide per minute.
Practice! Practice! Practice! This is not only the way to Carnegie Hall, but also to a good presentation. Practice with an eye on the clock as you only have 15 minutes! Also make sure when using a computer (e.g. PowerPoint) your files and images load quickly. There are few better ways to lose an audience than having them wait a minute until your next image loads!!
For a more detailed discussion on giving effective talks, see Leslie Meek's and Pete Wyckoff's Talk Tips.