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Site Review: Effective Presentation for Scientists (Online Tutorials)

You're up the night before your thesis committee meeting. You need to generate 10 PowerPoint slides to convince faculty that you're ready to graduate.

Or you need to convince a foundation that you're worthy of another $100,000 installment to monitor a wetlands ecological site.

Not problem, you think ... except that you can't limit your "talking points" to fewer than 25 slides. Major problem at 1:00 a.m.!

Before stumbling into intractable situations such as this, we recommend you try out at least one online tutorial on presentations for technical and scientific types. Three useful tutorials for scientists can be found at Jeff Radel's site. Radel, a developmental neuroscientist and faculty member at the University of Kansas Medical Center, originally developed these tutorials for a class he taught to graduate students.

The three tutorials cover the creation of oral presentations, visual aids, and poster presentations. To start, you need to click on the " begin this tour" link for each tutorial. Radel provides basic and detailed instructions, as well as numerous tips and tricks. We really wish we had known some of his guidelines when we were back in grad school or doing a postdoc. (The five-second rule, for example, or how to choose a font size for slide presentations and overheads.)

While some of the guidelines are obvious ("practice a LOT"), others are more obscure but potentially lifesaving. (Did you know that slide carousels and overhead projectors can be different sizes in different countries?) Radel guides the reader through each these potential problems.

Overall, you couldn't ask for a better guide to general scientific communication. Radel also provides " Odds and Sods," tips for dealing with the vagaries of travel and protecting your all-important poster at a scientific conference. Apparently extra double-stick tape and spray glue are essential for dealing with conferences that take place in extra-dry (Minneapolis) and humid climates (Miami during a tropical storm).

Our only complaint had to do with the lack of consistent linking to the main menu for each tutorial and to the home page for this site--sometimes the links were there, sometimes they weren't. It made it a little confusing (and there's no overall site directory) but you should be able to handle it unless you're using the site for the first time at 3:00 a.m. in panic mode!

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