Presentations: Creating the Content

Giving a presentation on your research is one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking things you will do in your Ph.D.  It is a big step, because it is a way to share your progress and knowledge with your field. I was so nervous presenting my first talk. I was one of the few graduate students giving a talk at this conference and the room was packed with people which further heightened my anxiety. When it was my turn to present, my heart was beating so fast, but when I started talking it was like an adrenaline rush. I loved it! Since that time, I have given over 6 oral presentations on my research. With each presentation, I have gotten a better grasp on how to make and present a talk. Today I am sharing with you my tips for creating a stand-out presentation for your next conference!

Visited Minneapolis, MN on a conference trip in 2017. Of course I had to stop by the biggest mall in america, The Mall of America!

1.Learn from others. A great way to start putting together a presentation is to understand what works in a successful one. Evaluate talks that you enjoyed or connected with. How does the speaker engage with you? Is there a specific way they display their information that makes it easy to follow? Is it the level of detail or simplicity that makes it relatability? I have seen some amazing talks and I especially appreciate speakers who can make me understand their research even if it is outside my area of expertise. It is equally important to understand what makes a presentation ineffective and you can apply the same questions to those.

2.Tailor the background to your audience. Think about who your audience is and what information they are familiar with. For example, if you are in a session on Nanomedicine, you can expect your audience to be familiar with nanoparticles and the methods of delivery, but will need more information on specific diseases or formulation techniques. The name of your session will give you some clues. Tailoring the background will allow you to skip over general knowledge and use more of your time for your amazing research!

Welcome to the Big Apple! Stayed in New York City last year for a conference. The hotel seriously looked like a jail, but it was worth the amazing sights!

3.Make graphs easy to read. Graphs and figures are some of the most important parts of a presentation. Make sure your graphs are easy to read, especially from far away. My advice is to make the font larger than what you think it should be (I use ~20 font size on my graphs). Boarders and bold thick lines can help the data stand out. Also use arrows or colors to accentuate certain points in your data, such as green for favorable data. I sometimes see graphs that are very busy which makes it difficult to comprehend in a short amount of time. So, my advice is to keep the graphs clutter free and streamline.

4.Make your figures large. Once you make the figures or graphs, make sure they are large on your presentation. It would be awful if you spend all this time doing your experiments and putting together the data, and then no one can see what you are presenting.

5.Use your text strategically. Different people may have different opinions on this. Personally, I think your text should complement the spoken portion. What I mean by this, is that you should have enough text that the audience should be able to follow either your slide or your spoken word to know what is going on. However, it is important that you keep your text brief so that the audience can read through your slide in a few seconds (a presenter will typically spend 1 minute per slide).

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I love getting the most out of my conference trips! So when I visited Pittsburgh this Fall, I had to go see the Andy Warhol museum and grab a can of Campbell Tomato Soup!
I was able to snap this amazing shot at the top of the Pittsburgh Convention Center. I am so grateful I get to go on these trip!

6.Strategic placement of diagrams & animation. The animation tool is one of the most powerful tactics you can include in PowerPoint. But with great power comes great responsibility. Animations should be strategically placed in your presentation and just stick to the simple “appear” feature. For example, on a particularly important slide you can animate a box to pop up around a significant data point. It really can add a lot to the audience’s understanding. Similarly, diagrams can help explain abstract concepts or mechanisms. Tip: The animation tool can cause PowerPoint to crash, instead you can duplicate your slide and add the item you want to “pop-up” on the following slide.

7.Point out the main points. I sometimes find it difficult to get the main take away from a slide or set of experiments when listening to a presentation. To avoid confusion, in my presentations I will add a text box for the take away message of the slide. It may lead you to repeating your conclusions, but they say people best remember things when they are repeated 3 times.

8.Edit it down. If your anything like me, your presentation will likely be way too long. Take the time to edit your presentation. Take out any extraneous information or unnecessary data that takes away from your conclusions. Rearrange information and figures to help clarify point. Don’t be scared if it feels like you are changing everything from your first draft, all the changes help it become better. Most importantly make sure your presentation length is within your allotted time (~ 1 slide/minute with an additional 2-3 slides is a good estimate).

I could probably go on and on but I think these tips covers the basics for things to consider when creating a presentation. Different people will have different opinions, so use the tips that best suit your style. If you have other suggestions, I would love to hear them! It is always great to get another (Grad) Perspective (pun intended).

I will be putting together another post on preparing for the presentation which will cover more on editing, practicing, and overcoming you fears. Wishing all of you the best in your future presentations!

The day of my PhD Proposal. I sat here nervously awaiting the start of my presentation. I took a few selfies to commemorate the day!

All the photos in this post were taken at times I gave a presentation. I thought it would be fun to look back at all those time!

I also wanted to thank all the new followers who have joined my blog! Big hello to all of you and thank you for the support on my blogging adventure!


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