We’ll present our research before an audience at least once – if not multiple times. Read this article to learn how to convey your research topic effectively.
The definition of a research presentation sounds self-explanatory. People will gather in a conference room (or on a digital platform), and we’ll tell them about our research. Well, yes and no.
Here at the Solar Energy Engineering department, research presentation is a part of our curriculum because we know that scientists must convey their ideas to an audience clearly in a captivating way. Thus, we encourage SEE students to present their research at every chance – in fact, the student presentations are one of the most popular events of our semi-annual Campus Phase.
However, for most of us, it might be daunting to present our research project with a time limit in front of others. Impostor syndrome might knock on our door at an unexpected time; we might find ourselves imagining the audience bored out of their minds or forgetting words. It is easy to avoid these simple yet oh-so-common pitfalls.
First, it is essential to determine why we are presenting. Are we defending a dissertation, doing a job interview, attending a conference, or asking for funding? In this article, I focus on a conference presentation. So, why do we do conference presentations? We want to inform the audience about particular aspects of the research to raise interest in the topic, establish or secure our spot in the academic world of the given topic.
Another aspect that we must keep in mind is the audience’s profile which means who they are, why they are there, and how big of an audience we’ll have. The size of an audience might determine the atmosphere – is it more intimate, and will you be more interrupted more often during your performance, or is it a big venue in a stricter setting with a designated discussion time? Whatever the case is, we can assume that your audience is interested in your topic and has at least some degree of knowledge in that subject. They might even be experts in the same field; they might be looking for fresh insights or expanding their academic network. Once we answer these questions, we can move on to the more practical aspects of the research presentation.
Before your presentation begins, ensure there are no technical issues: you did all the updates, screens work well, and you brought a virus-scanned and compatible USB stick if you are using one.
How we begin the presentation is important since it determines the audience’s engagement in the topic. After briefly introducing ourselves, before diving into the presentation’s main points, it is crucial to establish the structure to stay on the matter. We will use this structure as a reminder and guide. We must grab the attention of the room with the very first sentences. Begin with an interesting question that you’ll answer during your talk, bring up a problem you’ll discuss, or start with interesting statistics that reflect the issue at hand.
Practice your talk; prepare handouts if needed, and don’t write your whole presentation on your slides. Don’t monotonously read from a script – remember you want to invoke curiosity in the audience. Of course, you can peek and use your notes but don’t be dependent on them. Remember to keep the tempo high so that your audience does not get sleepy but not too high that nobody can catch a word that you are saying. Reflect your enthusiasm and interest in your topic with your body language – your audience will pick it up and be more interested in what you have to say.
Various Advice in Bullet Points, So You Keep Reading This Piece
· Keep the length of the presentation in mind and prepare accordingly – and remember that your real-life delivery will probably take a bit longer than what you rehearsed.
· Write your name and presentation title on the cover slide – it sounds elementary, but it can be easily overlooked once you are lost in the details!
· Write your main arguments in bullet points and make sure that they include the crucial keywords; they are the things your audience will remember.
· Implement well-made, good resolution graphics with not too many details that people have to strain their eyes to read them.
· On the presentation day, make sure that you are dressed cleanly.
· Use a consistent and professional design and avoid too many colors on your slide.
· Take enough breaths!
No Shame in Not Knowing Everything
Put yourself into your audience’s shoes and consider beforehand what kind of questions you might get asked – do not dwell on preparing these questions so much but remember that you should be able to explain the points you made in a bit more detail. If you don’t know the answer to a question, there is no shame in admitting it – simply state that you’ll do some more research and reach out to them later, or you need to inform yourself more about that particular aspect. Unless it is your Ph.D. defense, you cannot be expected to know every single part of the topic (don’t take my word for it, but you probably can’t know EVERYTHING, even if it is your Ph.D. defense).
Provide a Clear Conclusion
Don’t leave your audience hanging - include a clear answer to your research question; give a firm and concise conclusion that leaves no open ends. The Academy of Medical Sciences advises showing the significance of your research by putting the outcomes in a context, which means you should tell your audience how your findings could contribute to your field and broader society.
Take any feedback positively – if you think an audience member makes a comment or asks aquestion that you don’t find relevant, kindly ask them to explain its relevance to your research topic.
Finally, remember to enjoy your presentation and engaging with people that share your interest in your field.
Emerald Publishing, "How to... give a research presentation". https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/archived/research/guides/management/research_presentation.htm
The Academy of Medical Sciences, "Top tips for presenting your research effectively". https://acmedsci.ac.uk/more/news/top-tips-for-presenting-your-research-effectively
Scientifica, "Tips for presenting your scientific poster at a conference". https://www.scientifica.uk.com/neurowire/tips-for-presenting-your-scientific-poster-at-a-conference