View more...
Giving a Scientific Talk (Part I)
"There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars."
  ~Mark Twain
Giving a talk is nerve-wracking as it is. Scientific talks can be even more intimidating due to the scrutiny of your peers and professors. The next few blogs will discuss some helpful tips and pitfalls to avoid in order to make your talk as smooth as possible.
The Introduction: What's in a name?
The title of your talk doesn't need to be excessively detailed. If it ends up taking several lines of space, you may consider condensing it and making it concise. On the other hand, your title needs to be both catchy and informative. Your topic may be displayed on a flyer in the hallway and you'd like to at least catch some people's interest and have them attend your talk.

Django Unchained® 2012, Columbia Pictures, The Weinstein Company
You should also include the aims of your project at the beginning of your talk. This way you can hopefully tell a story of how you accomplished your goals.

If you're going to cover several topics, include an outline. For example:
Foxp3 expression
Autoimmune model 1
Autoimmune model 2
I like to gray out upcoming/completed topics and keep the current topic in black. This allows the audience to know where you're guiding them.
Also consider your audience. Are they all experts in your field? Or are they bacteriologists sitting in on your immunology talk? Provide background information and relevancy for your project. There's nothing worse than trying to follow a presentation with no prior working knowledge of the subject. To maintain your audience's understanding, you should also include a diagram/cartoon for your assay or disease model. Visuals may help those who aren't auditory learners.

Good Burger® 2012, Paramount Pictures
Similar to your title, any information you present should also be concise and to the point. When you put too many words on a slide, people will zone out. Alternatively, they may be so busy reading your information that they don't listen to a word you say. You may consider setting up the animation in your slide in a bullet point format. This way, you can discuss each point as it pops up and keep your talk focused. These bullet points (and anything else in your talk) need to be legible, even for people at the back of the room, so be sure to use a big enough font size. Also, try to avoid just reading off your slides. It can be very dull if the audience doesn't gain anything from hearing you talk live and in person.
The Results: Tread Lightly
When you begin to show data, make sure your legends and axes labels are clear. Include error bars where appropriate. Show the appropriate controls. Scientists love to scrutinize data. Don't give them an excuse to jump on your data. If you've got a lot of data and information, you may want to put up a conclusion slide after each section. This will help summarize your take-home messages in easy-to-digest bites rather than forcing the entire meal on your audience at the end. Also, be cautious with your claims by choosing your words carefully. The wrong word choice can lead to the misinterpretation of your data.

The Dark Knight® 2008, Warner Bros. Pictures
This is part 1 of our tips on giving a talk. Next week, we'll cover how you should close your talk and address questions. Have any tips of your own? Contact us here.

Just when I thought I got the hang of science…
Sorry, but all the T-shirts have been awarded.  Please keep an eye on future Blog posts for more opportunities to win.
View more...
Forgot your password? Reset Password
Request an Account