Effective Presentations homepage

Effective Presentations

An essential aspect of any research project is dissemination of the findings arising from the study. The most common ways to make others aware of your work is by publishing the results in a journal article, or by giving an oral or poster presentation (often at a regional or national meeting). While efforts are made to teach the elements of writing a journal article in many graduate school curricula, much less attention is paid to teaching those skills necessary to develop a good oral or poster presentation - even though these arguably are the most common and most rapid ways to disseminate new findings. In addition, the skills needed to prepare an oral presentation can be used in a variety of other settings - such as preparing a seminar in graduate school, organizing a dissertation defense, conducting a job interview seminar, or even addressing potential philanthropic sources!

Here are a series of on-line tutorials I have prepared as part of a graduate course (GSMC 857) taught in our basic sciences graduate program. My tutorials are intended to aid in:

  1. Developing an Effective Oral Presentation
  2. Designing Effective Visual Aids for Presentations
  3. Creating an Effective Poster Presentation

Judging from the e-mail I receive about these materials, and the wide variety of folks who send these messages, there's clearly a need perceived for this information. Great! You might want to explore some of the related material at these other sites. Many of these are designed for the business community, and some of these guidelines may not be perfectly appropriate for scientific settings.

The MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource Learning and Online Teaching) website is a free and open resource for on-line teaching, aimed at students and faculty. Be careful - you may end up spending lots of time exploring this site!

A spiffy presentation discussing Effective Teaching with Powerpoint from the perspective of Learning Theory.

The folks at ScreenTek have provided a concise and helpful guide to many different aspects of public speaking (my special thanks to Kristina, a student at Jefferson Elementary School District in Daly City, CA for this link!)

The Presentation Helper website is great site based in the UK that offers insights into presentations in a wide variety of settings. Even as a science geek you may occasionally find yourself making a weeding toast, speaking to kids in a classroom....

5.     The Executive Communications Group newsletter was recommended to me, and I'm happy to include here a link to the series of articles. These are oriented toward presentations in the business environment, but many of the suggestions do apply to scientific settings - particularly in job interview situations.

6.     I do recommend that you visit a page prepared by Mark Hill, based upon David Patterson's talk on How to Give a Bad Talk.

7.     Been there, done that... A few suggestions on coping with presentation disasters! This site includes other useful tips and links to a variety of resources for presenters.

8.     Meeting Tomorrow is an agency that facilitates event productions, presentations, and virtual communications. They have provided a series of help pages that may be useful for presenters. Check out the How to give an effective presentation webpage, as well as their many other how to& pages.

9.     The folks in the Instructional Support division at my institution work tirelessly to help support faculty - and here are links to a few training resources that they've developed (perhaps in self-defense). Instructional Support (presentations, web-based learning, etc.) and Computers & Technology.

10.   The Online Bachelor Degree Programs website offers a comprehensive and useful guide to public speaking - it's Your Online Public Speaking Guide: Information and Tips.

11.   Although the topics and advice relate only indirectly to the points I've emphasized regarding presentations, everyone should take time to review the Work Etiquette website. Useful information for all of us ...

Any other suggestions? If you have a recommendation for a not-for-profit resource, drop me a note!


There are a number of other, more detailed guides available for preparing a presentation, and for creating the visual aids to go along with that presentation. Try looking for books on the subjects at your library (key words: presentation, public speaking, lecture, effective).

1.     The Craft of Scientific Presentations, by Michael Alley. Springer-Verlag, New York, 2003. Good information, current technologies.

2.     A Handbook of Public Speaking for Scientists and Engineers, by Peter Kenny. Published by Adam Hilger, Ltd., Bristol, 1983. ISBN 0-85274-553-2 (Dykes library, KUMC reference number WZ 345 K36h 1982). A bit older, but the content remains germane.

3.     The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward R. Tufte. Graphics Press, Cheshire, CT, 1983. One of the very best books documenting the how and why of presenting complex data in an accessible manner. Although the book predates widespread use of computers, the concepts remain pertinent. Dr. Tufte more recently has published several books on related topics - all are good reads!

4.     The Compleat Academic - A Practical Guide for the Beginning Social Scientist. Mark P Zanna and John M. Darley (eds.); Random House, New York, 1987. ISBN 0-394-35252-1 (pbk). If you can find this book, you'll find it a very readable guide to the perils a beginning academic may face, and has some very good suggestions for ways to cope with them (e.g., never respond the the first e-mail or memo - others with clarifications or further requests are sure to follow). If you plan to pursue an academic career, this will be very useful.

5.     For those who may prefer a non-electronic source of information about preparing poster presentations:
Woolsey, John D. (1989) Combating poster fatigue: how to use visual grammar and analysis to effect better visual communications. Trends in Neurosciences, 12(9):325-332.

You can also, of course, visit my home page, or RETURN to the KU Medical Center Home Page.


Jeff Radel
Last Update: June 2012