Continuing our “Ten Simple Rules” series [1–5], we consider here what it takes to make a good oral presentation. While the rules apply broadly across disciplines, they are certainly important from the perspective of this readership. Clear and logical delivery of your ideas and scientific results is an important component of a successful scientific career. Presentations encourage broader dissemination of your work and highlight work that may not receive attention in written form.
Rule 1: Talk to the Audience
We do not mean face the audience, although gaining eye contact with as many people as possible when you present is important since it adds a level of intimacy and comfort to the presentation. We mean prepare presentations that address the target audience. Be sure you know who your audience is—what are their backgrounds and knowledge level of the material you are presenting and what they are hoping to get out of the presentation? Off-topic presentations are usually boring and will not endear you to the audience. Deliver what the audience wants to hear.
Rule 2: Less is More
A common mistake of inexperienced presenters is to try to say too much. They feel the need to prove themselves by proving to the audience that they know a lot. As a result, the main message is often lost, and valuable question time is usually curtailed. Your knowledge of the subject is best expressed through a clear and concise presentation that is provocative and leads to a dialog during the question-and-answer session when the audience becomes active participants. At that point, your knowledge of the material will likely become clear. If you do not get any questions, then you have not been following the other rules. Most likely, your presentation was either incomprehensible or trite. A side effect of too much material is that you talk too quickly, another ingredient of a lost message.
Rule 3: Only Talk When You Have Something to Say
Do not be overzealous about what you think you will have available to present when the time comes. Research never goes as fast as you would like. Remember the audience's time is precious and should not be abused by presentation of uninteresting preliminary material.
Rule 4: Make the Take-Home Message Persistent
A good rule of thumb would seem to be that if you ask a member of the audience a week later about your presentation, they should be able to remember three points. If these are the key points you were trying to get across, you have done a good job. If they can remember any three points, but not the key points, then your emphasis was wrong. It is obvious what it means if they cannot recall three points!
Rule 5: Be Logical
Think of the presentation as a story. There is a logical flow—a clear beginning, middle, and an end. You set the stage (beginning), you tell the story (middle), and you have a big finish (the end) where the take-home message is clearly understood.
Rule 6: Treat the Floor as a Stage
Presentations should be entertaining, but do not overdo it and do know your limits. If you are not humorous by nature, do not try and be humorous. If you are not good at telling anecdotes, do not try and tell anecdotes, and so on. A good entertainer will captivate the audience and increase the likelihood of obeying Rule 4.
Rule 7: Practice and Time Your Presentation
This is particularly important for inexperienced presenters. Even more important, when you give the presentation, stick to what you practice. It is common to deviate, and even worse to start presenting material that you know less about than the audience does. The more you practice, the less likely you will be to go off on tangents. Visual cues help here. The more presentations you give, the better you are going to get. In a scientific environment, take every opportunity to do journal club and become a teaching assistant if it allows you to present. An important talk should not be given for the first time to an audience of peers. You should have delivered it to your research collaborators who will be kinder and gentler but still point out obvious discrepancies. Laboratory group meetings are a fine forum for this.
Rule 8: Use Visuals Sparingly but Effectively
Presenters have different styles of presenting. Some can captivate the audience with no visuals (rare); others require visual cues and in addition, depending on the material, may not be able to present a particular topic well without the appropriate visuals such as graphs and charts. Preparing good visual materials will be the subject of a further Ten Simple Rules. Rule 7 will help you to define the right number of visuals for a particular presentation. A useful rule of thumb for us is if you have more than one visual for each minute you are talking, you have too many and you will run over time. Obviously some visuals are quick, others take time to get the message across; again Rule 7 will help. Avoid reading the visual unless you wish to emphasize the point explicitly, the audience can read, too! The visual should support what you are saying either for emphasis or with data to prove the verbal point. Finally, do not overload the visual. Make the points few and clear.
Rule 9: Review Audio and/or Video of Your Presentations
There is nothing more effective than listening to, or listening to and viewing, a presentation you have made. Violations of the other rules will become obvious. Seeing what is wrong is easy, correcting it the next time around is not. You will likely need to break bad habits that lead to the violation of the other rules. Work hard on breaking bad habits; it is important.
Rule 10: Provide Appropriate Acknowledgments
People love to be acknowledged for their contributions. Having many gratuitous acknowledgements degrades the people who actually contributed. If you defy Rule 7, then you will not be able to acknowledge people and organizations appropriately, as you will run out of time. It is often appropriate to acknowledge people at the beginning or at the point of their contribution so that their contributions are very clear.
As a final word of caution, we have found that even in following the Ten Simple Rules (or perhaps thinking we are following them), the outcome of a presentation is not always guaranteed. Audience–presenter dynamics are hard to predict even though the metric of depth and intensity of questions and off-line followup provide excellent indicators. Sometimes you are sure a presentation will go well, and afterward you feel it did not go well. Other times you dread what the audience will think, and you come away pleased as punch. Such is life. As always, we welcome your comments on these Ten Simple Rules by Reader Response.
The idea for this particular Ten Simple Rules was inspired by a conversation with Fiona Addison.
Dr. Philip E. Bourne is a Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States of America. E-mail: ude.csds@enruob
Competing interests. The author has declared that no competing interests exist.
Funding. The author received no specific funding for this article.
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If you’ve been asked to prepare a presentation, it’s time to look for good topics for presentations and choose the one that suits you best. A wide range of choices can be a real problem and you’ll have to spend a lot of time choosing the topic instead of working on your presentation.
Choosing Good Topics for Presentations Rules
By following two simple rules, you’ll choose your presentation topic without any effort:
- Pick the subject you are interested in. Topic knowledge and its thorough understanding will make the presentation preparing process easy and exciting.
- Choose a topic that is easy to illustrate by pictures – they will definitely increase your message retention.
Choosing Good Topics for Presentations Secrets
- Good topics for presentations should follow the writer’s passion and personal interests.
- The best choice is to write about holidays and hobbies. You won’t face any problems with photos and illustrations. When picking a hobby topic, make sure you don’t use jargon. Make it understandable for everyone. There is no need to tell you hobbies can be extremely varied and exciting.
- The main aim of the presentation is to attract the reader’s attention and the way to do this is you should choose yourself.
Ideas of Good Topics for Presentations
- Teen smoking.
- Prostitution is a profession by choice.
- Unusual career choices.
- Internet vs newspapers.
- Social networking effects.
- Is it necessary to abolish death penalty?
- Are vampires real?
- Does God really exist?
- Interesting information about Mars (as a planet).
- The purpose of life.
While preparing the presentation you’ll develop your public speaking skills and will be able to cope with stage fright. A good presentation should stimulate the audience to think over and analyze your ideas.
Good Topics for Presentations
- Should teenagers receive cash for doing household chores as an encouragement?
- What do you think about introducing separate classrooms for boys and girls?
- What do you think about students and teachers befriending each other on Facebook? What are the potential issues?
- Should America convert to the metric system? Why or why not?
- Is it better to close schools if the majority of its students perform poorly on standardized tests?
- Should teachers wear uniforms to school?
- Would you read an LGBTQ friendly fairy tale to your kid?
- Should kids’ cartoons be reviewed and censored to eliminate the depiction of violence?
- Is the “leave everything and travel” attitude advertised by magazines and blogs good or bad for you?
- What kind of punishment is the most suitable in schools?
- Should students be introduced to religion at school?
- Should a working husband help his full-time-mom wife after he comes home from work?
- What are the most important recent inventions made in the past five years?
- What is your favorite quote and why?
- Should high school football programs receive a lower budget?
- Should the school year be longer or shorter?
- Suggestions on improving the educational system in the US.
- Suggestions on improving the healthcare system in the US.
- Should parents control the time that teenagers dedicate to the Internet or computer games?
- The impact of beauty contests on the self-esteem and body image of women.
- What is the possibility of Mars being inhabited by humans some day?
- Discuss the mandatory reporting practice in healthcare.
- Should organ donation after death be encouraged?
- Find out about your region’s local folklore and traditions.
- How do you find the most important words if you need to learn a foreign language quickly?
- Where do superstitions come from?
- What is dyslexia and how can you help a person suffering from it?
- Why can feral children never adapt after being found by humans and brought back to society?
- Where was the first writing system invented and why?
- How has social media impacted your life?
- Should plastic surgery be banned unless a person has some severe physical conditions that lower the quality of life?
- Should political studies be included in the high school curriculum?
- How can we become more tolerant and accept diversity regarding race, religion and political views?
- Is globalization good or bad for mankind?
- Does Christianity have any impact on a modern person’s mentality and view of the world?
- Can euthanasia decrease suicide rates?
- Should parents be prohibited from giving children exotic names?
- Does texting worsen our vocabulary and writing abilities?
- Are GMOs safe for our health? Should they be banned?
- What is the difference between a religion and a cult? How do you spot the latter?
- Describe the most iconic person representing your country/region/city.
- Is nuclear power better that solar power?
- Should a 5-day week be changed to a 4-day week?
- What are the main risks of creating a human-like artificial intelligence?
- Should bloggers be treated as journalists and punished for providing wrong information?
- Will it help to reduce child obesity if school cafeterias serve only healthy food?
- Gambling should not be abolished, since it isn’t harmful and encourages tourism. Agree or disagree?
- Should online teaching be treated as equal to the regular form of teaching?
- Should standardized tests be eliminated? If so, what are other ways of assessing children’s knowledge?
- Should automobile drivers be fined for polluting the environment?
- Should athletes’ salaries be limited?
- What are the best ways to encourage apolitical people to vote?
- Will the advancement of computer technologies make printed books disappear?
- What are some of the most iconic examples of censorship throughout history?
- The effects of computer mediated communication on our working and everyday lives.
- Is daydreaming a useful or harmful activity for you?
- Internet access should be free worldwide. Agree or disagree?
- Is it acceptable for a state to fund schools that popularize a certain religion?
- The three most popular conspiracy theories.
- Are there any benefits to playing video games?
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