Important Elements

Keeping these elements in mind as you prepare and practice the presentation will reduce the amount of re-working you'll have to do as it evolves, and will result in a more streamlined and effective end product.

  1. Rate: The optimal rate for a scientific talk is about 100 words per minute. Any faster and the audience can't absorb the additional information. Use pauses, and repeat critical information.
  2. Opening: The opening should catch the interest and attention of the audience immediately, while avoiding trite filler phrases (Thank you for having me . . .) and technical jargon.
  3. Transitions: The link between successive elements of the talk should be planned carefully, smooth, and logical. You should make the relation between successive elements clear to the audience.
  4. Conclusion: Summarize the main concepts you've discussed, and how your work relates to issues you've raised. Aim to help your audience achieve high retention of this final information. Signal that the summary is beginning ("In summary, ..."), but don't begin the summary too soon or else the audience will start to leave before you finish!
  5. Length: Don't run over! Ever! Shorten your talk by removing details, concepts, and information, not by eliminating words. If it becomes absolutely essential to supply details, supplement your presentation with a handout. Make about 10% more handouts than you think you'll need. Always leave time for a few questions at the end of the talk.

Remember that there is no point in giving a presentation if the audience isn't listening. You should make a big effort to help them be interested in what you have to say. It therefore is appropriate to use techniques to retain audience interest, provided these techniques don't detract from the content or professionalism of the talk.

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Jeff Radel