In this second posting of his four part blog article, Leonidas Georgiou describes why presentations become tedious and what you can do to avoid it. His message is: ”It’s up to you to make it interesting!”
The problem: Why is it boring?
• Your teachers were boring.
If you are used to people presenting science in a boring way, it doesn’t mean that you have to follow them. If so, do not communicate science the way you had science communicated to you! The chain of boring has to break!
• You have no passion.
If you are not passionate about what you are doing, especially if it is science, ask yourself: ”Why am I doing it in the first place?”
• You focus too much on technical details.
Using too much technical detail, you will have the opportunity to show off the big words you learned … and successfully bore your audience to death.
• You are addressing the wrong target group.
You are presenting advanced neurochemistry to kindergarten children or how to tie shoes to your father-in-law.
• Your slides are full of clutter.
”Only if there was space to put this entire paragraph on this presentation slide”. NO! Too much text = no one is going to read it; you might as well leave it blank.
• Your voice is monotonous.
If you are conveying your message like a bad computer voice reader, do not be surprised on the audience response: Ctrl – Alt -Delete.
• You are not moving.
Statues tell no tales; we pay more attention to animate objects. You can convey a lot of information through your body.
The solution: How to make it interesting !
Step 1: Why is your research important?
Identify the importance of your research and tell your audience what they want to know. This will motivate them to keep up with your presentation.
Step 2: Why are you passionate about it?
Tell us why you are passionate about your work. We will share your passion, multiply it and send it back to you with our full attention. We would like to empathise with you. This will also help you with your delivery.
Step 3: What is the bigger picture?
Your research should be a little step in the understanding of the universe. Tell us how it fits with the biggest challenges. This will help us understand the context.
Step 4: Build your story.
What questions did you ask? Why did you ask them (Steps 1, 2, 3)? How did you tackle them? Did you find any answers? What do they tell us about the bigger picture? Are there any challenges with the questions or answers? What else can we do? Be creative. Do not forget to summarise at the end of major points and during your story, if appropriate. Work on the transitions from one point to the next.
Step 5: Use the best tools to present your story.
Are you limited to one tool (i.e. PowerPoint)? How about other tools such as: whiteboard, poster, pointers, model examples, video … your own limit is your imagination.
Step 6: Simplify and adapt.
Make the presentation as simple as possible, but not simpler. Tune it to you audience, especially the background.
Step 7: Write it down.
You have to do it, as weird as it may seem. Writing a manuscript will help you find the right words, structure your content and give you overview.
Step 8: Erase all unnecessary content.
Yes, even if that means erasing half the presentation. Ask yourself: ”Does this word/sentence help me communicate my message?” If not, remove it from its pitiful existence once and for all. Be ruthless. Do not hesitate.
Step 9: Practice, Practice. And Practice.
The more you practice, the better. Practice by yourself, then go annoy your friends and ask for feedback. Track your time!
Bonus: Ultimate challenge! Explain your work to your mother or grandmother (for bonus points). If they understand your work, you are amazing. You have nothing to worry about; you are my role model.
Step 10: Go rock their socks off.
Present your research. Amaze them with how interesting your work is. Entertain your audience while teaching them. Have fun with it! People want you to do well.
Step 11: Answer the questions.
Respectfully answer all the questions asked to the best of your ability. If you know your content, it should be a piece of cake.
An excellent summary on how to build an amazing presentation was posted by Chris Anderson (Ted Curator): How to Give a Killer Presentation
The other blog posts in the series:
Part 1: Fight the boredom
Part 3: Great communicators of science
Part 4: Some recommended YouTube science channels