Tips for preparing a successful presentation

Below are some tips for successful presentations prepared by the ASLO Student Resources Committee. We hope you find this useful as you prepare for the 2017 Aquatic Sciences Meeting!

Preparing a Successful Presentation

Submitting the Title and Abstract

Your presentation needs an attention grabbing, short title. If possible, incorporate the key result or a provocative question to draw in potential audience members. The abstract is a concise summary of the research that will be presented at the meeting. It should help set the stage for your presentation and address the following:

  • What is the problem or question?
  • What was done to address the question?
  • What was the outcome and relevance?

Tips for Great Oral Presentations

Successful presenters are not only well versed in the research that they are presenting, but they are cognizant of their audience. First and foremost, this means being respectful of the allotted time which includes 3-5 minutes for questions at the end of the presentation. Second, good presenters plan and execute their talk with the audience in mind. Ask yourself these questions as you begin constructing your oral presentation:

  • What makes this research unique?
  • How does it fit into your specific subfield as well as the broader field?
  • What background information do you need to include to provide context?
  • What is the take home message for the audience?

Your talk should flow like a story and include the following information:

  • Title Slide: Includes the title, authors and your contact information.
  • Introduction: What is the research question and why does it need to be asked? The introduction section should include background information, provide context for the audience, and explain the problem and demonstrate the need for this research (sometimes referred to as the ‘knowledge gap’).
  • Methods: How did you go about answering the research question? Clearly and simply state how and where the experiment was conducted or the observations collected. Particularly when presenting a model or meta- analysis, work flow diagrams are often helpful.
  • Results: What data have you gathered or analyzed in order to answer the question? This is arguably the most important section of your talk. Results need to be presented in a clear manner using graphs and tables. Consider what the take home message is for each figure that you choose to include. How does each figure add to the body of evidence you are amassing to answer the research question?
  • Conclusions and Discussion: The conclusions are the take home message for the audience so they should be stated clearly. Additionally, take the time to provide context for how your results fit into the big picture.

Your story will be muddled if your slides are not clear.

The slides that you create are the visual representation of the story you are telling. There are numerous resources online with information about effective visual presentation. Here we have listed a few general guidelines to get you started:

  • Balance text and graphics: it is a good idea to include a few key phrases or points on your slides to help the audience; however, blocks of text are distracting and difficult to read from the back of the room.
  • Make sure the font size is large enough: this includes axis labels and legends in figures. Often the figures you produce for a publication are not ideal for presentations!
  • Keep graphs and tables simple: each figure that you choose to include should serve the story that you are trying to tell. Consider including the take home message for each figure as the title of the slide in order to keep your story on track.

Successfully Delivering the Presentation

The best oral presentations are always well rehearsed. Practice your talk in front of colleagues and friends. The best feedback often comes from practicing with people that are unfamiliar with your work as they can identify areas where the explanation is not clear enough. Here are some other tips for delivering your talk:

  • Strive for the five C’s: Look and sound Confident, Credible, Competent, Convincing, and Comfortable.
  • Polish your delivery: Maintain good eye contact with the audience. Do not read from your notes and never read from the overhead, slides, or pad pages.
  • Know the room: check out the room before your talk if possible. Know if you will be wearing a microphone, standing behind a lectern, where the clock is, and how big the screen will be.

Tips for Successful Poster Presentations

Having a professional looking poster is just as important as giving a good talk. A well-designed, easily-readable poster will impress others and hold the reader’s attention. ASLO meeting information will provide guidelines for the size and format. Usually this includes:

  • Title, Author and Institutional Affiliation across the top of the poster (use a large, bold font)
  • Background and Research Question(s): Provide context for the audience and present the knowledge gap that your research addresses. Consider using bullet points to decrease blocks of text.
  • Methods: Include the necessary information without getting bogged down in the details. If you have a specific study site, including a map is often useful.
  • Results: The results are the most important section of the poster. Clearly designed graphs and tables are critical with easy to read axis labels. Captions should be self-explanatory and informative.
  • Discussion: The discussion explains why the results are significant and interesting. The poster should tell a story just as much as an oral presentation, so be certain to consider the take home message for the audience.
  • Additional Hints: Stay alert during the poster session, and prompt visitors to enter into a discussion about your research. Have a 1-2 minute speech prepared walking visitors through the poster. If possible, project your poster onto a screen and take a few steps back to test if the text is large enough.
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