Presenting your research well is critical to being a successful scientist.
If you’re a good presenter, you’ll be able to get people excited about your research, which may lead to collaborations, funding, awards, and jobs. Now that you know how to prepare your presentation from my previous blog, here are the keys to delivering it.
Dress appropriately the day of your presentation. Load your PowerPoint ahead of time and make sure it’s compatible. Always have a backup file you can access in case the first method fails. Emailing it to yourself is smart. Also bring a bottle of water to the podium in case you need a drink during your talk.
It’s a great idea to own a laser pointer so you’ll feel comfortable using it. Find one with a strong laser, and make sure it’ll transition from slide to slide with ease. Many people struggle with laser pointers they aren’t used to. They spend time looking down to find which button to push or accidently going in reverse or skipping slides. These things serve as unnecessary distractions for both you and your audience. If you don’t have your own laser pointer then make sure to examine the one you’re using before the talk.
Giving a presentation to a large audience can be very intimidating. To help with your initial anxiety, memorize what you plan on saying to start off your talk because you don’t want to flub one of your first lines. After the first slide or two you’ll be warmed up, the nerves will fade, and you’ll be in your rhythm.
Speak strongly, slowly, and make eye contact when you present. Avoid fidgeting and saying words like “um” throughout your talk. These habits can be corrected if you’re aware of them.
Be enthusiastic when you present! It’s a lot harder to pay attention to someone who’s monotone and has no energy. Why should people care if the presenter doesn’t even seem excited about their own research? It can also be difficult for audience members to keep their focus, especially when sitting through an entire day of lectures at a conference, for instance. The more enthusiasm you bring, the more attention you’ll receive. But don’t go over the top because science is serious stuff after all.
Refrain from using notes. With sufficient preparation, your slides should be the only cues you need. Also, don’t read your slides word for word. As you gain more experience, it’s better to have a conversation with your audience rather than recite your presentation. This comes with time, knowledge, and confidence. The more presentations you give, the more you’ll feel comfortable in front of an audience.
Don’t fear being asked questions at the end of your presentation. If anything, look forward to it, as not being asked any questions may indicate you weren’t successful in capturing your audience’s attention or they didn’t follow your presentation well enough to formulate questions.
Answering questions on the spot in front of an audience can be very daunting and is something many people have difficulty with initially. But the more experience you gain, both with your research project and presenting your work, the easier it will become. If you know the answer to a question, this is an excellent time to shine and let the audience see how knowledgeable you are.
If you don’t know the answer, you can be honest and say you’re unsure, but along with that, it’s generally a good idea to think about it and give them an educated guess, if you can. It’s unwise to blatantly make up an answer as there will likely be people in the audience you won’t be able to fool. If you don’t know the answer, look it up and make sure you know for next time.
You can also receive great feedback during the Q&A time. If you’re having any trouble with your research, people in the audience may offer helpful suggestions. Audience members can also provide new ideas and different viewpoints that can help your research become more well-rounded.
Use every presentation as an opportunity to hone your presentation skills. I hope you’ll find a few of these tips helpful during your next presentation. Good luck!