Good Work Deserves a Good Presentation

Once again i find the AERA annual meeting engaging and worthwhile. I gladly yield to the seductive pull of passionate people sharing what they know and do.

And, as usual, i have seen some really smart people give some really bad presentations.

Speakers talking at onehundredmilesanhour to squeeze in everythingtheywant tosay. Speakers going substantially over their allotted time. Speakers showing slides with paragraphs full of words in small unreadable type. Speakers standing facing the screen instead of facing the audience.

I think we can do better.
Most presentation problems can be solved by rehearsing in advance.

Timing. Practice your presentation before you come to the conference. Use a watch or stopwatch. If necessary, shorten your talk to allow you to speak at a normal relaxed pace and still hit the high points. When a speaker goes over time, that cheats the others and makes the audience restless.

Visuals. Powerpoint slides work best when they are simple and colorful. Paragraphs of words and complex tables are neither colorful nor simple. Save those for handouts or downloadable PDFs. You know those details, we don’t and we must fight to grasp everything while you’re saying something else.

Audience engagement. We would rather see your face than your back. If you read from your projected slides, we cannot see your face. And reading from the screen makes it appear that you don’t know your stuff. Write your main points on index cards, hold them in your hand, and face your audience.

Videotape yourself and critique. Use a smartphone or generic videocam to record your practice presentations. Check for the above points. Practice and record again until you’re comfortable with the way you come across.

If your work is important enough to present, it’s worth presenting well.

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One Response to Good Work Deserves a Good Presentation

  1. Excellent points Paul. On Friday, Barbara McKenna and I shared effective presentation and communication tips with NCME researchers, and again yesterday during an AERA professional development course. Like you, I keep witnessing similar presentation problems at nearly all sessions I have attended. Presentation training for researchers should be included during their doctoral work. Mike Rose at UCLA has been a leader in that effort, but we have a long ways to go. Lots of tips and suggestions at my web site below.

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