2Bad conference presentations You’ve seen poor conference presentationsThe speaker:SitsReadsSpeaks in a dead, low voiceUses sentences which are long and complexUses technical words and phrases.Emphasizes complicated detailsRuns out of time
3Principles of effective conference presentations An effective talk must do two things:Persuade you audience with evidenceBe interesting and entertaining.Principles of effective conference presentationsTalk, instead to readingStand upMove aroundMake eye contact with your audienceDon’t only look at one side of the roomImitate excellent speakers
4Why do smart people give poor talks? Poor speaking is a reaction to fear.Presentations are not journal articles. They're a completely different communication, and they require different skills.
5Bohr vs. Nusslein-Volhard “Whereas Einstein tried to grasp a hidden essence by disregarding anything he thought irrelevant, Bohr insisted that nothing be left out.” – Edward MacKinnon“Bohr was much worse. His failing was that he used too many words to express any idea, wandering about as he spoke, often inaudibly.” – Sir Mark OliphantNusslein-Volhard:Scope moves from simple to specificSimple short sentences
6Bohr’s Nobel prize acceptance speech “Today, as a consequence of the great honor the Swedish Academy of Sciences has done me in awarding me this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics for my work on the structure of the atom, it is my duty to give an account of the results of this work, and I think that I shall be acting in accordance with the traditions of the Nobel Foundation if I give this report in the form of a survey of the development which has taken place in the last few years within the field of physics to which this work belongs.”
7Nies Bohr: Nobel prize acceptance “The present state of atomic theory is characterized by the fact that we not only believe the existence of atoms to be proved beyond a doubt, but also we even believe that we have an intimate knowledge of the constituents of the individual atoms. I cannot on this occasion give a survey of the scientific developments that have led to this result—I will only recall the discovery of the electron toward the close of the last century, which furnished the direct verification and led to the conclusive formulation of the conception of the atomic nature of electricity which had evolved since the discovery by Faraday of the fundamental laws of electrochemical theory, and its greatest triumph in the electrolytic dissociation theory of Arrhenius.”
8Einstein on BohrBohr stated “his opinions like one perpetually groping and never like one who believes himself to be in possession of definite truth.”
9Christine Nusslein-Volhard In the life of animals, complex forms alternate with simple ones. An individual develops from a simple one-celled egg that bears no resemblance on the complex structure and pattern displayed in the juvenile and adult form. The process of embryonic development with its highly ordered increase in complexity accompanied by perfect reproducibitiy, is controlled by a subset of the animal genes. Animals have a large number of genes. The exact number is not known for any multicellular organism, nor is it known how many and which are required for the development of complexity, pattern, and shape during embryogenesis. To identify these genes and to understand their functions is a major issue in biological research.
10Scientific presenters Successful scientific presentersLudwig BoltzmannAlbert EinsteinRichard FeynmanRita Levi-MontalciniLinus PaulingBecame strong presenters later in their careersHeinrich Hertz,J. Robert OppenheimerChien-Shiung WuRise above those obstacles to make successful presentationsMarie Curie
11Michael Faraday on presenting “[Lectures] depend entirely for their value on the manner in which they are given. It is not the matter, not the subject, so much as the man.”
12Scientists who used analogies, examples, and stories Otto Frisch when describing the size of a nucleus: “If an atom were enlarged to the size of a bus, the nucleus would be like the dot on this i.”Einstein used the analogy of “shooting sparrows in the dark”7 to describe the likelihood of producing nuclear energy with alpha particles striking nitrogen nuclei.Fred Soechting when describing his work with turbine blades in gas turbine engines: “The amount of power produced by a single gas turbine blade equals that of a Masarati sports car.”8
13Issac Asimov on Linus Pauling “On March 21, 1949, I attended a lecture given by Linus Pauling.... That talk was the best talk by anyone on any subject that I had ever heard…. The talk was more than a talk to me. It filled me with a desire of my own to become a speaker.”
14James Watson on Pauling’s presentations “Pauling’s talk was made with his usual dramatic flair. The words came out as if he had been in show business all his life. A curtain kept his model hidden until near the end of his lecture, when he proudly unveiled his latest creation. Then, with his eyes twinkling, Linus explained the specific characteristics that made his model—the α-helix—uniquely beautiful…. Even if he were to say nonsense, his mesmerized students would never know because of his unquenchable self-confidence.”
15David L. Goodstein on Robert Feynman “[Feynman] absolutely riveted the attention of everyone in the room for the entire time he was there. His need to do that helps explain some of the racy stories he liked to tell about himself, but it also lies close to the core of what made him a great teacher. For Feynman, the lecture hall was a theater, and the lecturer a performer, responsible for providing drama and fireworks as well as facts and figures. This was true regardless of his audience, whether he was talking to undergraduates or graduate students, to his colleagues or the general public.”
16Professor David Goodstein on Robert Feynman “But even when he thought he was explaining things lucidly to freshmen or sophomores, it was not always really they who benefited most from what he was doing. It was more often us, scientists, physicists, professors, who would be the main beneficiaries of his magnificent achievement, which was nothing less than to see all of physics with fresh new eyes.”
17Oppenheimer’s early lectures Consider J. Robert Oppenheimer’s early lectures given at California-Berkeley in Only twenty-five years old, but already well known for his work on the quantum theory, Oppenheimer began his teaching that first semester with a class full of eager graduate students.Halfway through the semester, though, the number of students registered for his course had dropped to one.
18Daniel J. Kelves on Robert Oppenheimer “Desperately eager to reach his students, his sensitivities sharpened by his own past difficulties, Oppenheimer made it a point to pay as much attention to the troubles of his charges as to the intricacies of his subject. His language evolved into an oddly eloquent mixture of erudite phrases and pithy slang, and he learned to exploit the extraordinary talent for elucidating complex technical matters.”
19Result of Oppenheimer’s practice Later students found him to be “the most stimulating lecturer they had experienced.”
20Nobel Prize winner Hans Bethe about Oppenheimer “Probably the most important ingredient Oppenheimer brought to his teaching was his exquisite taste. He always knew what were the important problems, as shown by his choice of subjects. He truly lived with those problems, struggling for a solution, and he communicated his concern to the group.”
21Lise Meitner on Ludwig Boltzmann (the developer of the statistical treatment of atoms) “Boltzmann had no inhibitions whatsoever about showing his enthusiasm when he spoke, and this naturally carried his listeners along. He was fond of introducing remarks of an entirely personal character into his lectures.”
22Lise Meitner on Ludwig Bolzmann “[The lecturing of Boltzmann] was the most beautiful and stimulating thing I have ever heard.... He was so enthusiastic about everything he taught us that one left every lecture with the feeling that a completely new and wonderful world had been revealed.”
23Eve Curie on her mother Marie Curie “On Monday and Wednesday, my mother was nervous and agitated from the time she got up. At five o’clock on these days she lectured. After lunch she shut herself into her study in the Quai de Béthune, prepared the lesson, and wrote the heads of chapters of her lecture on a piece of white paper. Towards half-past four she would go to the laboratory and isolate herself in a little rest room. She was tense, anxious, unapproachable. Marie had been teaching for twenty-five years; yet every time she had to appear in the little amphitheater before twenty or thirty pupils who rose in unison at her entrance she unquestionably had “stage fright.”
2410 tips to develop confidence in conference presentations Expect to be nervousPreparePracticeBreatheRehearseFocus on your audienceSimplifyPicture successConnect with your audiencePretend to be confident
25Advantages and disadvantages of different sources for speech Speaking from pointsCredibility earnedEase of adjusting speechEye contactNatural paceWording not exactLong preparation timeMemorizingPrecisionSmooth deliveryPotential for disasterUnnatural paceInability to adjust speechReadingCredibility undercutLack of eye contactSpeaking off the cuffNo preparation timeDifficulty in organizingLack of visual aids
26Situations appropriate for each source of speech SourcesSituationSpeaking from pointsConference presentationPresentation at business meetingUniversity lectureMemorizingFirst few words of presentationShort introduction of a speakerReadingPress conferenceQuotation within a presentationComplex wording within presentationSpeaking off the cuffAnswering a questionAsking a question
27Voice qualityYou should vary your voice, so it can be more interesting for your audience. You can vary your voice in at least three ways:speed: Speak at a normal speed, faster, more slowly, and you can stop completely! You can also pause to get your audience's attention.tone: Change the pitch of your voice. Speak in a high tone or speak in a low tone.volume: you can speak at a normal volume, loudly and you can speak quietly. Lowering your voice and speaking quietly can attract your audience's interest.The important point is not to speak in the same, flat voice throughout your presentation. This will put your audience to sleep.
28Face the audience and speak loudly and clearly Don’t look at your slides makes you to speak to the screen. This quiets your voice and breaks your contact with the audience.Look at slides on your laptop screen in front of youIf you must look at the main screen, look at it quickly and then face the audience.Make simple slides with short text, so you won’t have trouble knowing where you are when you quickly look at the screen.
29Think about your presentation goals In conference talks you should have at least two goals:leave your audience with a clear picture of your contribution,make them want to read your paper.
30Focus on the main points Your audience is not going to remember details. So, less is more.You do not need to provide all the background on how you reached this interpretation.You do not need to defend the validity of your idea.You don't need to give a literature review.Give short, take-home points that they’ll remember. They can always read your paper later, but if you don’t interest them, they will not read it.Don't summarize popular ideas.Don't assume that a critic familiar to you is familiar to everyone else.Consider the audience to whom you are speaking.
31Think about your audience Most audiences should be targeted in layers:some are experts in your specific area,some are experts in the general areaothers know little or nothing.Who is most important to you? Can you still leave others with something? For example, target the body to experts, but make the prediction and summary to everybody.
32Timeline showing presenter reaching multiple audiences by beginning at surface of the topic, diving into a subject, and then surfacing to gather entire audience.
33Audience attentionDon’t try to say too much, use handouts for all supplemental materials.Never go longer than 45 minutes — most people’s maximum attention span.If you exceed this limit, you’ll lose them at the crucial point; your conclusion.
34Have a timing device Use a watch or cell phone with a timing function. PowerPoint’s “Presenter Tools” has a stopwatch. The problem is remembering to start the stopwatch at the beginning of your talk.Develop your sense of timing by always using the same slide format.Decide in advance which slides you can skipAs a beginning speaker, don’t leave your outlineDon’t try to do something unplanned during a talk.Practice telling a joke or a story and make your audience think you just thought of it
35A short conference talk outline Title/author/university (1 slide)Abstract (1 slide) -Give the basic problem and answer.Outline (1 slide) -Give the talk structure.Motivation and Problem Statement (1-2 slides) -Why does anyone care?Related Work (0-1 slides) -Talk briefly about this, or you can eliminate this section and refer people to your paper.Methods (1 slide) -Cover quickly in short talks and refer people to your paper.Results (4-6 slides) -Present key results with implications. This is the main body of the talk. Do not cover all the results. Cover the key result well.Summary (1 slide)Future Work (0-1 slides)Backup Slides (0-3 slides)
36Using quotes in your speech If you quote another source, pause and indicate the quote by saying "quote end quote."Don't use long quotes or quote too much material. Your audience wants your ideas, not what you have found from others.If it is necessary to include long quotes, give the audience a handoutRead the speech out loud as you revise.Be careful criticizing other scholars.
37Talk to the audience, not the screen About PowerPointPowerPoint saves time compared to writing on the whiteboard.Don’t use all PowerPoint’s fades, transitions, backgrounds and sound effects.Talk to the audience, not the screenOne of the worst presenter mistakes is to face the screen while talking. If you do this, the audience will be looking at your back, and they won't be able to hear you.
38Prepare for computer problems many things can go wrong with the computer, the projector, the software, the connector cables, your USB, or your presentation.Don’t assume that what works on a PC will work on a Mac.Don’t assume your host will have the same version of PowerPoint that you do.Bring backupBegin making backups several days before the talk.Use a USB, a CDROM, or some other common format.Internet backup isn't reliable, you can't be sure you'll have a connection.Bring printed notes or outlinesIf the computer or the projector dies in the middle of your talk, you'll have no time to fix it.Be prepared to deliver your talk without the slides. Bring printed notes.
39Other presentation problems Someone asks a question about an issue you plan to discuss later.Answer the question briefly, and say you plan to go into detail later.You lose your thought in mid-sentence.Smile, say "excuse me" and start again.You plan to go through a handout page by page but people are moving ahead of your speech.Don't give handouts until after the presentation is over.Give people a rough idea of where different parts are located, then people are more likely to stay with you.Your throat dries outRoll a tiny piece of paper into a small ball and place it between your gum and your facial tissue in the back of your mouth. It will stimulate the flow of saliva.
40Someone starts a private conversation while you are speaking. First, ask if there are questions.Second, ask if you can do anything to clarify.If they will not stop, continue your presentation but move nearer to them. Lower your voice or pause.Notice your audience and respond to their needsTake control of the environmentDistribute copies of your paper
41Conference presenters can use humor to help the audience: Remember the main pointsSee the big pictureRetain information longerInteract with members of the audiencePresent a sensitive idea without the audience getting angryFeel free to express themselvesHumor takes practiceYou need to make a connection with the audience by promoting interaction and openness.You can develop humor by talking to some of the audience before the presentation
42Inappropriate humor for conferences: Don’t do the following in conference presentations:Use prepared jokes that have no connection to your purposeRead your jokes and stories.Laugh at your own jokes; or start laughing before you tell them.Announce that you are going to tell a joke; and apologize if it is bad.Criticize the audience for not laughing.Tell stories that make fun of others or make them look bad.Act like you are better than others.Use humor that the audience may not understand.Embarrass people.Tell dirty stories.
44Don’t Write Everything and Read Your PowerPoint presentation should:Clarify ideasEmphasize key pointsShow relationshipsProvide visual information to ensure the audience understands your message
45Slides Should be ShortSlides help you, and your audience, follow the flow of the talk.Not too full: 6 lines of text per slide is enough; 9 lines is a lot; 12 lines is unreadable.Bullet points should be a few words, not complete sentences.If you need more space, use more slides.
46Use Big Type.Change the font size in the Preferences of the browser, when using a web presentation.
47Determining Font SizeYour audience may be look at the screen from 70 feet away.Fonts should be 24 points or larger
48Choosing a FontFrom a distance, you’ll notice that the serif (Times) font and the ‘narrow’ or condensed font are more difficult to read. Don’t sacrifice readability for style. Your job is to communicate.
49Use the Correct Font for Easy Reading For handouts or take-home material, use a serif font.For projecting on a screen, using a slide, overhead or multimedia projector, use a sans serif font. Because serif fonts can look fuzzy when projected.
50Use contrasting colors Choosing a colorYellow with black letters is considered the most readable.Color blindnessUnwanted light affects color contrast by turning dark reds and greens much lighter.About 10% of people have difficulty with reds and greens.Use contrasting colorsA dark background with light text is easily readableUse drop shadowsAvoid busy backgroundsAvoid using red textAVOID ALL CAPS!
51Choose White or Light Colored Slide Backgrounds Dark text on light colored slides can usually be read with lights on.Avoid dark images that won’t show up well on a screen.Be aware that sunlight shining directly on your screen will make it less visible.
52Presenting with Charts Simplify chartsChanging the chart formatHow do you know when to use which chart? That depends on how well you’ve stated the message.Your heading should always tell people what you want them to look for on a chart.Choosing the chartOnce you have an action statement as a heading, look at the verbs in the statement to get an idea of the best chart to use to present your data.
53→ Showing Change Over Time Line chartLook for a key wordGrowDeclineTrendsLine charts are best when a variable has more than four or five data point.The slope of the line quickly tells the audience the direction of the trends.
54→ Comparing Items at One Point in Time Look for a key wordRanksComparesHighest profitThe lowest interest rateThe most products soldRank variables from largest to smallest Bar charts are often the best way to compare a set of individual items or several sets of related items.The bar’s length corresponds to its ranking; the bar’s label identifies the item.Bar chart
55→ Comparing Parts of a Whole Look for key wordsPercentagePortionShareThe number of pie slices should not be more than five, and each slice should be easy to see and interpret.Pie chart
56→ Comparing Data by Geographic Location Look for key wordsCountryAreaDistinguish among regions by using different colors, shadings, or symbols.Segmented bar chart
57Additional Tips for Graphs and Charts 1. Show one message per chart. Make the message the heading. 2. Make the chart easy to read. Make the most important text largest, the most important data lines or sections darkest. 3. Be accurate. Always start a numerical axis at zero. Compare only like variables. 4. Eliminate all unnecessary details. 5. Use no more than four colors per visual. 6. To focus attention, use color, shading, or images such as arrows to highlight key words or concepts. 7. Write in upper and lower case. Words written in all capitals letters are hard to read. 8. Make bars and columns wider than the spaces between them.
58Don’t Get too Technical The more advanced the technology, the more likely there are to be “technical problems.” Speakers often come in at the last minute and are completely destroyed when their equipment doesn’t work. It creates panic for everyone. Always send a copy of your presentation to the conference office in advance so it can be loaded and tested.
59Don’t Apologize for Errors Don’t apologize for poor English speaking, it wastes time and adds no value to your talk. Don’t comment on spelling, grammatical, or other mechanical errors in your presentation. Most of the audience won’t notice unless you apologize.
60Buy a Laser Pointer and Wireless Mouse They are inexpensive, and are extremely useful. It is helpful to be able to change pages from across the room and point out key graphs and charts.
61The Last Thing on Your PowerPoint At the end of your presentation while answering questions, leave up a contact info slide containing your name, , address, and website URL related to the talk if you have one.6161
63Why Are Questions and Answers Important? Questions and answers are important for several reasons:Get attentionCreate interestGet feedbackMake points easy to rememberCreate audience interactionPromote new thoughtsTo get comfortable with Q&A sessions and questions, start asking questions throughout your presentations.6363
64Before the Presentation Prepare for criticism by telling your ideas to a critical friend.Bring a list of references when answering questions.Take notes of questions and suggestions.Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer to a particular question.If you are using slides, save several slides and use them to answer expected questions.6464
65At the End of the Presentation There are two endings to a presentation with a final Q&A session.Example:“At this point, I want to get your opinion on this approach. This side of the room first.”The second close is after the questions to summarize the main points of your presentation.“As you can see from the questions and comments, this topic is confusing and we don’t have all the answers but here is what you can do for now...”6565
66After the Presentation Sometimes question time is so exciting that you can’t answer all the questions with the time you have. Tell people ways to contact you and when and how you will respond. Think of ways to share these questions and answers with all members of the audience through an list or Web site.6666
6712 Ways to Encourage Audience Questions 1. Announce the question session in an open,conversational way.2. Design questions into your content and delivery:Title: Why Knowledge Management? —and Why Now?Opening: What is the biggest problem facing researchers today?Content: “My presentation is about four key questions.”Ending: Considering these facts, how can you not act? 6767
683. Ask a question, pause and then give the answer yourself. 4. Bring up questions you have been asked by other audience.5. Let the audience know in the beginning there is a Q&A session, and “when” it is and “how long” it is.6. Provide a seating arrangement where the audience can see each other.7. List questions in the presentation announcement or brochure.8. Provide a white board for the audience to write a question at any time. Start your Q&A session by answering these questions.6868
699. Pass out paper for the audience to submit their. questions 9. Pass out paper for the audience to submit their questions. They may forget what they were going to ask earlier. This is often used at public meetings and when the audience is large.10. Don’t ask for feedback and then start to pack up your laptop or your notes. This sends the clear signal that you are done and ready to go.11. Arrange for someone in the audience to ask the first question to start the process.12. Ask yourself what questions you hope no one asks and then prepare to answer them.6969
70Why Do People Ask Questions? Because they want to know the answerBecause they want to make a pointTo impress the audienceTo see if you know the answerTo see how you handle questions and the stressTo attack your methodologyTo make you look bad (for example, if they are competing with you for a job)Some ask questions that are in fact a personal attack (but not often)7070
71Don’t let an interesting but unrelated question start you on a new speech. Don’t let your presentation continue on thinking the Q&A time is extra time for your presentation.Consider questions as an honor your presentation. Good ideas create questions. Boring presentations make people leave.7171
723 Step Template for Answering Questions 1. Listen to the entire question before youanswer2. Thank each person for asking the question.3. Then follow the template below.Repeat→Respond→Review7272
73Additional Tips on Handling Questions Ask people to stand up when they ask a question. This does two things:1. It shows you who is asking the question2. Makes it easier for the audience to hear the question7373
74What If You Don’t Know the Answer? Suggest someone in the audience more qualified answer the question. “Professor M. has studied this extensively.”Delay, “That’s a good question...”Ask a question: “Can you clarify what you mean?”Admit you don’t know but will research it for them.Repeat the question in a different way: “Is this what you are asking?” [Then say a question you can answer]If you don’t have a good answer after these delaying tactics, say: “Let’s talk about that after my talk.”7474
75What If You Can Think of Nothing to Say? 1. Smile: People always like people who smile. 2. Tell a story: Stories take time and you can be thinking about your next point. 3. Change the topic of the question to something you know about. If you don’t know the answer to a question, than answer a different question.7575
76What If You Don’t Understand the Question Because of the Speaker’s Poor English? If you don’t understand the English, ask the speaker to repeat the question.If the questioner still asks and you still don’t understand, say, “Great question, but it quite specific to your field and does not concern everyone here, see me after the talk and we can go into more detail about it.”Quickly move to another question or conclude your session.7676
77What If Someone Keeps Interrupting You While You Are Talking? If it’s just a clarifying question and it’s short, answer it and keep speaking.If somebody keeps making long, loud comments, or begins to argue with you in the middle of your talk. This can be very stressful, especially if you are a grad student or new professor.7777
78Don’t Let Your Time Get Wasted Speech times don’t get extended for time wasted by the audience. You need to develop a strategy for keeping control. The best ways to do this follow.look at whoever is chairing the conference session, or your sponsor at a job talk.you can wait politely for a pause in the attack, and then say as calmly as possible something like: “Thank you for your comment. I’d like to respond, but if you don’t mind I’d like to wait for the question period.”7878
79Your Final Solution to An Attacking Attendee You need to say loudly but firmly, as strongly as you can: “Sir, please allow me to finish my talk.”Then, proceed and ignore further interruptions from that person.7979
80Remain After Your Presentation Session Be available to answer additional questions if you can.Make notes about the questions, suggestions, new thoughts you can use these comments to improve a paper for publication and your reviewers may be in the audience.8080
81NotesIsaac Asimov, Foreword to Linus Pauling: A Man and His Science, Anthony Serafini (San Jose: to Excel, 2000), p. xiv.Michael White and John Gribbin, Einstein: A Life in Science (New York: Penguin, 1995), pp. 164–165.Ruth Sime, Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 96–97.D.H. Frisch, private communication to Abraham Pais, “Reminiscences from the Postwar Years,” Niels Bohr: A Centenary Volume, ed. by A.P. French and P.J. Kennedy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), p. 247.Richard P. Feynman, “Surely, You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” (New York: Norton & Company, 1985), p. 166.Michael Faraday, letter to Benjamin Abbott on 11 June 1813, The Selected Correspondence of Michael Faraday, ed. by L.P. Williams, R. Fitzgerald, and O. Stallybrass (Cambridge: Cambridge, 1971), pp. 60–61.Lise Meitner, “Looking Back,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 20 (November 1964), pp. 2–7.David L. Goodstein, “Richard P. Feynman, Teacher,” “Most of the Good Stuff”: Memories of Richard Feynman, ed. by Laurie M. Brown and John S. Rigden (New York: American Institute of Physics, 1993), p. 123.
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