AAS 219 Twitter Review: Presentations

by Jessica Lu on January 18, 2012

I attended AAS 219 in Austin and rather than take my own personal notes, I decided to tweet (@jlu_astro) during some of the sessions. My goal was to extract the most interesting and useful information so that anybody not in the room could get a small taste of what the session was like. Over the next couple days, I’ll post my tweets from these sessions so they don’t get lost in the twitter-verse and we can continue the conversation about them. In particular, the professional development sessions were extremely useful and worth reviewing here.

First up, Making the Most of Your Oral Presentations by Jean-Luc Doumont

This session was essential for all of us and if you didn’t make it this year, I highly recommend attending next year. (It was a hit last year as well!) Here are my tweets in chronological order:

  • Your talk should always have a message.
  • In your talks, adapt to your audience.
  • Watch out for your mannerisms, verbal and physical.
  • Don’t state what you do, but WHY you are doing it. This goes for your elevator pitch too.
  • Always end definitively, clearly, and elegantly. Perhaps go back to the first message/question/picture.
  • Don’t use your slides as a cheat sheet for yourself.
  • My favorite all time advice: One message = one slide.
  • Slide Titles: Left align, two lines max, a full sentence stating the message.
  • Modulate the tone/rate/volume of your voice, but with purpose.
  • Get your animal communication going and stand tall, straight, and stable to project confidence.
  •  Make eye contact with your audience… conveys message, keeps attention.
  •  Jean-Luc Doumont: http://www.principiae.be for more info on Effective oral presentations.

What are your words of wisdom about giving good talks?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 EB January 18, 2012 at 7:51 am

Full-sentence slide titles are great. They enforce one message per slide and ensure your audience has at least a general sense of your point at every moment.

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2 Christopher January 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm

One of my favorite suggestions was to put the conclusion right near the beginning. It’s so contrary to how we structure papers, but makes sense from the audience point-of-view. They are going to spend the first minute trying to figure it if this talk is worth listening to. Hook them with the cool result right away — then tell them how you did it.

Jessica already said it above but it’s worth reiterating: your slides are for your audience, NOT FOR YOU! Don’t use them as a crutch. If you don’t know your talk well enough that you can’t do it without your slides, then you’ve got more work to do.

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3 Marshall Perrin January 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Putting the conclusion first is actually not so different from how we should structure papers. That’s what the title and abstract are for, to a large extent!

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4 Christopher January 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Funny, I was thinking that while I was writing the comment (voice in head: “put the conclusion early, you know kind of like an abstract”) but somehow it never made it from my head to the keyboard….

5 Adam January 20, 2012 at 12:51 am

Laser pointer etiquette – use sparingly (i.e., when a small thing really does need to be pointed out, not an obvious sentence) and practice moving your hand smoothly – there is nothing worse than wild laser circles for distracting the audience (especially if your audience are cats)

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6 Matt K January 24, 2012 at 6:32 am

I’ve just done a course on how to make a short presentation for undergraduate majors, and the two biggies are:

(i) CLEAR figures. Strong graph axes, and RELABEL them with clear dark text if needed. If I’m at the back of a room and you forget to explain the axes, I have to make a guess. Don’t make me work for it.

(ii) NO pages of equations – I know you’re clever, but I’m not interested in parsing equations in a talk. It’s doubly embarrassing if I then point out an error in one of your integral limits.

The only time I’ve seen an equation work in a slide was when the persenter revealed each term in sequence and explained significance/dependence of that piece. The rest of the equation text was greyed out with the relevant expression emphasized for clarity.

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7 Ivan Ramirez December 3, 2014 at 4:56 pm

This is a very good one, I think, stolen from Twitter (@PlanetDr):

Pro tip: your last slide stays up longest (bc of questions) it should be your summary slide. Not “questions?”, not acknowledgments. #DPS14

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