Now Presenting: Your Best Research Part 3: Make it Beautiful & Edit Yourself

Part 3/3

by Sanae Ferreira

What did you think about the last segment? Once you have material down and have started moving things into place, it is time to focus on the aesthetics as a tool for delivery and then whittle it down to the best, smoothly executed version.

Let’s dive right in.

Tips and Tricks

Make it beautiful:

  • I know what you’re thinking. Beautiful? A few greyscale smudges on a Western Blot? I personally think that GFP and DAPI stained images are beautiful, but my artistic inclinations are for another story.
  • Break UP the text. Even a slide deck needs a visual pause sometimes. A simple slide asking a question can give the right amount of pause to help the listeners integrate the information, recharge, and get ready for the next points.
  • Break DOWN the ideas. Make models to show processes and logic. In some cases, it works beautifully to use it as a way to guide the audience through the talk.
  • Strategically highlight points. This translates to bold emphasis on the slide, reinforcement of key information with a summary slide, or boxes around critical data or visual elements to compare and support the points. Crisp placement of figures or strategic entry of text to explain a figure are fine details that you can use to your advantage so that people know what to focus on and wrap their mind around.
  • Slide backgrounds are best when they’re simple and don’t compete with the important information in the foreground. If you’re aware of the presentation room ahead of time, knowing about the lighting in the room can also make a difference if you go with a black or dark blue background and yellow or white text, or white background and black or dark text. Accent colors can then be most helpful in drawing attention to key parts of the slide.

Edit yourself:

  • This concept applies across many industries. Now that you’ve got a draft in, you have to practice actually speaking out loud. This is the way to know if you have timing of any animations correct with what you plan to say.
  • If you find yourself not sticking to your plan, also practice recovering with a brief pause and gathering yourself. Remember, only you will know you’ve forgotten something.
  • Please, please, please check your spelling. I always notice and it is distracting. I don’t only mean hitting Spell Check. Science is FULL of hard to spell words, many of which you or I may not have even heard of, and Spell Check hasn’t either. You have to go through it again yourself on one of your edit reads or practice sessions. It may seem juvenile (and you thought spelling tests were over!), but for the moment of the presentation, you’re the expert and you should be very professional and take it seriously. You never know if someone attending the talk IS an expert and your misspelling could be like calling him by the wrong name. It also just shows the people reading it that you care enough about the work to give it your full attention.

Preparing a presentation does help, as does teaching any topic, to crystallize the information. I encourage you to seek out opportunities to present papers or findings. Scientists often get a bad reputation for being poor presenters and communicators, but that doesn’t always have to be the case! The most successful talks I’ve been to are as much about the exciting data as the delivery: if they speak clearly, at a proper pace, and have clear logic to the slides or visual aides.

Presentations are a skill that you really have to learn by doing. Make it a goal to apply a few new tricks to your next presentation, and keep track of how you do. Make a goal with other students in your research group to improve upon one presentation-related thing this semester and encourage each other.

One final word:

Try to make the topic interesting to you somehow, and that enthusiasm can help make others understand the topic and maybe even get excited about it too. Presentations are your stories, so tell them with intention, clarity, and style.

Did you miss Part 1 or Part 2? Part 1: Now Presenting Your Best Research and Part 2: Now Presenting Your Best Research: Prepare the Material and Organize the Talk