Seminar Tips

Presentation skills can make or break a presentation! Your seminar grade is based on the quality of your presentation, and great presentation skills can make even a project you wish you‟d done differently into a first-rate seminar. Below are some tips that will help you avoid common pitfalls and create a sparkling presentation. Organization

Make the “big picture” clear. In the first few minutes of your talk, your audience–even those that know nothing about your research area–should have a very clear understanding of the big question your research addresses, your specific objectives and hypotheses, how you will accomplish your objectives and the significance of your research. A lengthy introduction before you get to your research question leaves your audience feeling unsure of what they will need to remember. “Package” each experiment. A rigid intro-methods-results-discussion format is required for a scientific paper, but a presentation needs to be more flexible! In a presentation, your audience can‟t flip back to a previous page, so you have to organize your presentation to help them. If you are presenting several experiments, a good format is to give some general background, then introduce the purpose of each experiment, how the experiment was done, the results and their meaning. Once you‟ve delivered this “package” to your audience, go on to the next experiment. At the end, summarize the results of each experiment again before wrapping up with general conclusions.

Anyone who wants to know the details can ask. Where appropriate. the hypotheses you were investigating and the take-home message. . then build up the evidence in support of it piece by piece. talk about how many times you‟ve repeated the experiment or show standard deviations. so put a little text right on the result slide. And anyone in your audience should be able to understand the significance of your research. Anyone in your audience who has taken 200level courses in your major should be able to understand your entire talk clearly. ask yourself what you want to convince your audience of.     Show me the data! Don‟t have one slide where you show the results and then a text slide where you talk about them. The audience wants to see what you‟re talking about. Listeners can easily get lost in a long list of methods. Your audience does not have to hear about every experiment you ever did. Spend enough time on the actual graphs. Less is more. gels. As you design your presentation. Don‟t worry about keeping them in suspense–it‟s perfectly OK to tell them the conclusion up front. Keep methods brief. Take the audience through the data step-by-step. Instead. Be persuasive. Focus your talk on clearly presenting a limited number of ideas and experiments that really make your point. or leave out the text completely and just show the results as you talk about them. A good scientific presentation should build a case for whatever conclusion you want your audience to believe. spectra or other data that the audience can clearly see how your results lead to your conclusions. list only the key steps of the method and tell why each step was important. including the one you totally screwed up. ttests or other statistics to provide support for your conclusions. Give enough background.

. students will put a bibliography slide at the end. Practice your talk until you know it well. Show how others‟ work leads to or supports your hypotheses. so it might be more useful to put a condensed reference in small type at the bottom of the slide where the information is given–something like Smith et al. There‟s nothing wrong with having some notes to refer to in case you get stuck. Be natural. And of course give appropriate credit! Often. Biol. If you‟re reading directly from your slides or relying heavily on your notes. It‟s a seminar. your audience automatically assumes you don‟t really know your material. Knowing your material well will also help you get over any nervousness. Give credit where it’s due. Hey. notes are OK. you have to be making eye contact and talking directly to them. or a long chemical name that you might blank on. Tell how your work fits into the context of what is already known. but it‟s unlikely that the audience will get much out of this. If you mis-pronounce a key term. Demonstrate that you have a good grasp of the scientific literature in your field. Be sure you know how every term is pronounced! And what they mean–someone may ask you. this is great research you spent all summer on! If you sound bored with it. not a campaign speech. The people in the audience are your colleagues. Breathing from your diaphragm and pitching your voice a little lower than normal can help. Then you can look at your audience when you deliver it. It could be the greatest presentation on earth. If you tend to speak quietly. Show them with your voice and manner how excited you are about the work you did. Chem. Be enthusiastic. but your audience will never know that if they can‟t hear you. so you won‟t stumble or wonder what slide is coming next. 53:11417 (2002). too. Make yourself heard. your audience will get bored and think you don‟t know your material well. or where your results might disagree with others‟. But. Speaking style       Know your stuff. practice with a friend sitting in the back row and have him or her stop you every time you‟re not loud enough. for sure your audience will be. J. so talk to them as a fellow scientist explaining what you think are important results that need to be shared. Know the vocabulary. etc. It‟s a very good idea to write down any details you think you might forget: a chemical structure that someone might ask a question about. or a list of slides. All scientific research builds on and connects with the work of others. To engage your audience.. Just don‟t use „em as a crutch.

Use simple clear fonts and plain backgrounds.” say “I purified this DNA fragment from my gel using the Geneclean kit.   Practice your talk. Scientists use lots of lab slang. your audience will spend its time reading them instead of listening to what you‟re saying. Flashy backrounds or fancy animations don‟t work well in a formal presentation. Use animation only if needed for emphasis. Avoid jargon. Plus.” Instead of “we PCR‟d up the gene. but in a formal presentation. Who‟s going to read all this text?? . Minimize text. Where will you need to spend the most time? Where would an example be helpful? In addition to practicing on your own. coli chromosome. Don‟t say “I Geneclean-ed the DNA. but cutoffs and a torn shirt don‟t make much of an impression. Dress nicely. Go through the whole talk and figure out how you‟re going to say what you need to say. Don‟t just prepare the slides: prepare yourself. not for entertainment.” try “we used PCR to amplify the lacZ gene from the E. you will be tempted to read them instead of making eye contact. you need to be sure you‟re using terms precisely and that your audience understands them. light gray or light tan or else white on dark blue work best. Black or dark blue on white. If there are a lot of words on your slide. Avoid glaring or clashy colors.” Visuals   Keep it simple. Just a few key words will help your audience get the message without distracting them. A suit and tie or dressy dress isn‟t necessary. Your dress helps let your audicence know you‟re in charge. it is helpful to practice in front of friends and your research mentor.

find appropriate images on the Web (try Google image search) or just draw your own–remember. When you resize an illustration. No one wants to squint at tiny numbers in a table when a nice. and add titles to graphs and captions to photos where appropriate. Label all graphs and axes. photos and drawings add life to your presentation. visual graph would show them better. be sure you shrink or stretch both its width and height at the same time. Portray results appropriately. PowerPoint is also a drawing program! Be sure text is clearly readable even from the back of the room. Consider whether a bar graph is appropriate for your data. You can take photos (ask to borrow a digital camera). Your audience will notice if you flatten or stretch it by changing its size only in one dimension. or whether a line graph is called for. Don‟t forget units! Add labels or arrows to a photo or NMR spectrum to help make your point. Squashed Original image Resized proportionately . Wouldn‟t it be easier to explain that complicated experiment if you had a diagram? Plus. Don’t accidentally “squash” photos or graphs.Much easier for the audience to grasp!     Use pictures.

PowerPoint presentations with lots of images get big fast. Use standard fonts. much larger than this. superscripts. your text shows up. Keep your file size small. In an Excel graph. A great freeware program for working with images is IrfanView. etc. equations. If you need to show a chemical structure. Set the resolution to “Web/Screen” and check both of the options at the bottom. fonts. Watch your signficant figures. and so on. and then shrink them to an appropriate size before moving them into PowerPoint. any videos or animations work. etc. PowerPoint tips     Test your presentation in the seminar room at least the day before you give it! Be sure your images look right. Did you know that either the space bar or the left mouse button will advance to the next slide? Did you know that the backspace key goes back one slide? Did you know you can hit the . Use the spell checker built into PowerPoint. your fonts look right. sizes.3 x 104 looks a lot better than the computer shorthand 1. use ISIS Draw. it won‟t display properly.021341112. etc. If you use a font that‟s on your computer but not the computer you use for your presentation. Know how to run your show. You don‟t want a typographical error to appear in 48-point bold text for your audience to focus on! Make your visuals look professional. to make your graph as clear as possible and remove unnecessary legends. but most digital cameras give you images that are much.  Proofread carefully. and don‟t let your figures get cluttered with numbers like 147. Another way to reduce file size is to use File | Save As | Tools | Compress Pictures when you save your presentation. If you must use an unusual font. Be sure to go through the actual slides so you don‟t get surprised by animated text you didn‟t realize was animated. To keep your file to a reasonable size (so it loads and saves quickly and can be e-mailed if necessary). backgrounds. An image that is 1000 pixels wide at a resolution of 96 dpi will fill a PowerPoint slide (and higher resolutions are not needed unless you need high-quality print-outs of your slides). Learn how to insert subscripts. greek letters.3E04. but also read through every slide carefully before the presentation. then use File | Save As | Tools | Save Options | Embed TrueType Fonts to save the font information with the presentation. Use standard scientific notation: 1. A little playing with PowerPoint will pay off in making your slide show smooth. Crop your images to include just what you want to show. reduce the size of your images. etc. change colors.

If you have a movie. so that you can write on the board or while you‟re waiting to be introduced?). and some will play some kinds of movies but not others. Be sure your movies will play. so be especially certain to test your presentation on the seminar room computer if you have multimedia. . Not all computers (even classroom computers) have exactly the same software installed. video clip or animation inserted into your PowerPoint. Otherwise. keep it in the same folder as the presentation and move the whole folder at once. “B” key to temporarily black out the slide (for example. PowerPoint will lose track of where the movie is and won‟t play it.

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