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Advice on my first research presentation!

  1. Apr 27, 2012 #1
    Hey, I was wondering if anyone had some last minute advice in preparing for a first presentation.

    I gave presentations in high school and freshman college lit classes and such, but I was never really concerned about embarrassing myself ^^;...usually nothing was all that important...so this is basically my first real presentation.

    It's at our universities research symposium and the audience is roughly 60% undergraduate students and 40% professors. Most of the audience is unfamiliar with my material (QFT)...so I'm trying to keep things as conceptual as possible and I avoided most of the mathematics except in the statement of the integrals being performed and the end results.

    I gave a practice talk last night to a friend's hall floor [almost entirely second and third year engineering students] and they said to try and make things more accessible and to give the full wordings of acronyms before using them :uhh: I guess it's sort of unreasonable to expect everyone to know "HEP" or "QCD" if they're just a random science/math/engineering major.

    Other than those specifics though, I was wondering if anyone had general overarching advice on how to present. I have heard a whole lot of things in the past, but I figured it can't hurt to try and pick up some useful information a few hours before hand :d

    Thanks for any and all advice!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 27, 2012 #2
    Avoid busy slides, small print, large tables, all the things you hate when you see someone else present a paper. Leave the humor in the comedy club, since it is too taste specific. Never ever be blah blah blah. Ever had a boring professor with a monotone voice? Yea, don't be him. Speak in a clear voice and without being over-the-top, show your enthusiasm for the subject.

    Lastly, be ready for questions. Give thoughtful answers and forget BS’ing, since the audience will see through it. Decide when and how to say “I don’t know, it’s….” a) something I need to think about, b) outside my scope of work, c) studying that area now, d) good question I’ll need to consider, etc., etc.
  4. Apr 27, 2012 #3


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    To add to ThinkToday's great suggestions, practice your timing. I think the biggest problem and worry with most presentations I've ever seen/done has been timing. Practice your talk at least 4 or 5 times with people to get the timing correct. Definitely take the advice about making the talk more accessible. The very first time you bring in acronyms (without previously defining them) that a high schooler won't recognize is when you'll start losing a lot of the audience.

    I want to emphasize the "busy slides" issue as well. Remember, your audience will be hearing you and reading the slide all within about 2 minutes at the maximum (maybe more if your talk is a larger, 30min+ talk, which is better). If you have more than 2 graphs or a whole paragraph worth of wording, it will be very hard to follow. I remember a few years back when our department was hiring a new HEP professor and they gave talks at our weekly colloquium. Most of them had so many slides with so many words and graphs that had 7 data sets each that some of us stopped going because it felt like a waste of time trying to keep up or figure out what was going on.
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