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Department presentation I'm doomed

  1. Nov 20, 2006 #1
    I have to present one of the lab experiments we did on Nov. 27. I'm in third year, and this is the first presentation I've done in physics. The presentation will be open to everyone, which basically means the entire department will be there. Does anyone have any pointers for this? I plan on knowing my subject well, but any extra advice would be appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 20, 2006 #2
    My department did the same thing for third years. Most physics undergrads to horribly in physics talks, so you want to set reasonable expectations, and be willing to learn from the experience. Of course, you'll want to be as prepared as you can.

    Really the only thing that can help is to practice - hunt down your research advisor, and make him listen to your whole presentation under real time constraints. Get as much constructive criticism as you can! Most physics students are simply awful at public speaking - they face the powerpoint/chalkboard while talking so that no one can hear them, they mumble, they cram tons of equations on the board without setting them up and explaining what they mean, etc. Sadly, a lot of professional researchers are equally clueless. So get your advisor, supervisor, professor, someone qualified who is willing to set aside an hour of their research life to help you learn how to speak to a scientific audience.

    For your presentation, don't overdo the material. Use as few powerpoint slides as possible, and plan to spend several minutes talking about each one. Many people race through dozens of slides, or pages and pages of tedious derivations, and few people are willing or capable of following that. Keep concise and focused - realize that the audience has a very limited attention span, and knows less than you about what your research did. Use absolutely no more equations as necessary - each one has to be properly set up, introduced, explained, given meaning, etc. And of course, don't overdo the bulletpoints - people are there to hear you speak, not read.

    There's a paper floating around somewhere on the web, with advice for physics students giving talks. Unfortunately I don't remember where it went...
  4. Nov 20, 2006 #3
    Nov. 27th? Seven days is plenty of time to prepare, thanks to the miracle of powerpoint. The actual preperation of the slides, equations, graphics, and photos is insignificant (don't overdo it!); you're real effort should be on practicing giving your talk, to a research advisor, professor, your friends, a mirror or a shiny spoon. Mainly, you want someone to tell you that your talk is totally incomprehensible, and how you could fix it (talk slower! face the audience! delete superfluous junk!) You also get certain habits, having run through your speech several times, which make it flow much more smoothly under real pressure.

    By coincidence, I'm travelling to a physics conference on the same day. Not giving any talks, just thought it was a neat coincidence.
  5. Nov 21, 2006 #4
    Powerpoints are wack. Use a blackboard, and derive everything under their noses.
  6. Nov 22, 2006 #5
    Haha. That would be awesome. I also thought of doing an impression of a different professor on every slide. (I'm very good at impressions) That would get me kicked out of the department pretty quick I imagine.
  7. Nov 22, 2006 #6


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  8. Nov 23, 2006 #7


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    You've given a lot of presentations then :rofl:

    Key advice is not to overload the slides, and to use about one slide evry two minutes.
  9. Nov 23, 2006 #8


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    Some advice:

    know your subject and your audience...
    don't read from your slides...
    speak clearly and professionally... but not too fast...
    but pace yourself... don't run over your allotted time [you could get cut off]
    make the slides legible... avoid distracting backgrounds, effects, and sounds...
    make graphs large... and well-labelled... and use the right type of plot... (e.g., log plot, if needed)
  10. Nov 23, 2006 #9
    That's the one!
  11. Nov 29, 2006 #10
    I did my presentation on Monday, and I got the highest in the class with 9/10. Sweet!
  12. Nov 29, 2006 #11


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    So, what did you do?
    and what advice would you give... what to do... and what not to do?
  13. Nov 29, 2006 #12
    First, Congrats to ultimateguy for getting a 9/10 on his presentation.

    Second, What was it on and how did you do it (first part, I just want to know, and second part: I just want to know how to improve my own technique).

    I agree almost 100% on this statement. Powerpoints are distracting and are hard to pay attention to when you are a memeber of the audience. Yes, they are great to get the intial point out or presenting data, but other than that the blackboard is where it is at.

    Every presentation I have done in college, thus far, I have attempted to incorrporate the black board into it, as it put me on the spot, and it focuses the attention of the audience as they aren't distracted by the powerpoint. And every presentation thus far has been ranked pretty high, so I am going to stick to that arguement.
  14. Dec 1, 2006 #13
    My presentation was about a magnetic hysteresis lab experiment that we did this term. I used PowerPoint for the presentation, but I put only enough text to briefly describe the point I was talking about. I made the text elements appear one at a time, but I didn't put any animations to them because I find them to be cheesy and distracting. I went through the presentation several times the night before (my cat was my audience), and when it finally came time to present I had no trouble conveying what I wanted.

    All in all I'm happy it turned out so well, a couple of professors even complimented me afterwards, which is always nice.

    And about the blackboard thing, one of my classmates used his blackboard method to derive the equations involved in electron diffraction. It was clear he didn't know what he was talking about and he got torn apart. Though I'm sure a knowledgable person could do it successfully.
  15. Dec 1, 2006 #14
    Thats a really good point about the risk of blackboard usage, if you don't know the material, or your derivation is weak in anyway, the audience has been forced to pay attention to any details, opening you up to being ripped in half.

    Good tips on the powerpoint though, I might consiter using Powerpoint once in a while now that I know someone else managed to do it with compliments from professors to boot.
  16. Dec 1, 2006 #15


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    The problem with the blackboard derivation idea is that people assume if they can do it once, they can do it a million times, and don't practice.
  17. Dec 1, 2006 #16


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    Some blackboard use is painful to watch, especially if the person has slow and/or illegible writing or drawing, or stands in front of the writing, or has not prepared for the visual appearance of the finished product [e.g. are all of the terms defined? with consistent notation? with nothing left out that is difficult to correct in real-time?].

    If I were taking detailed notes, I'd want the writing to go slowly enough for me.

    If I were just trying to get the general idea, I don't want it to go as slowly.

    So, it really depends whether one should use a blackboard/whiteboard or use powerpoint.
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