Presenting science to an audience of peers is among the most fundamental of job skills. Yet, few scientists receive training in how to present, beyond the occasional ad hoc critique during the weekly lab meeting, or the odd rehearsal leading up to a thesis defense.
If you've ever experienced a really good presentation -- and you have -- you know that the average quality level of presentations at conferences is abysmal. Too often, they're little more than data dumps, with no clear story line or explicit scientific conclusion. If you want to know how the data presented alter the scientific landscape, you'll have to fill in the blanks yourself because most presenters don't do it for you. It doesn't help that the ubiquitous format -- a series of bulleted PowerPoint slides -- isn't good at demonstrating subtle relationships among complex ideas.
It's not surprising that most talks aren't very good. Giving a good talk requires a combination of skills that, as already noted, are not taught. A good presenter must be both visual designer and performer. She or he must prepare well and then perform under pressure. To help you on your learning curve, Science Careers offers the following resources:
Your Voice: Your Passport to Authority
A more relaxed, decisive, and authoritative voice can be a definite asset in a scientific career.
The Job Talk
Focusing on the audition for an academic post, our Academic Scientists at Work columnists offer detailed suggestions for delivering effective presentations.
Giving a Great Presentation
Our Mastering Your Ph.D. columnists focus on the big picture.
Reinventing the Standard Model of Science Presentations
PowerPoint may be the default--or only--choice at scientific meetings, but it may not be the best way to communicate scientific ideas.
Presenting Science for the Anxiety Averse
Sharon Ann Holgate polls experts and passes along tips for dealing with presentation-related performance anxiety.
Presentation Tips for Non-Native Speakers
Contributing Editor for Europe Elisabeth Pain -- who was born in France, lives in Spain, and writes and presents in English -- offers tips on presenting in a language that's not your own.
When You're Shy, All the World's a Stage
Our Mind Matters columnist offers tips for overcoming shyness.
Slipping Humor Into Scientific Presentations
Humor can be helpful in a scientific presentation--but don't try to force it.
Experimental Error: Lies, Damned Lies, and Seminars
Adam Ruben wonders why departmental seminars are crappy.
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