I have reread the book “The Craft of Scientific Presentations” by Michael Alley. The first time I read it was four years ago when I was still starting to appreciate scientific research and writing. Fast forward: Now that I often find myself presenting my own research results to the scientific community, I realized that I still haven’t learned the basics and that there are still tons of things to know and avoid when presenting. So I scanned the pages of the book once again and listed all the critical mistakes usually committed in a scientific presentation.
1. Giving the wrong speech
This has something to do with not orienting yourself on the various fields of expertise your audience is into. Before any presentation, make a quick background information of the attendees. This way, you will have at least a general idea of whom you are talking to.
2. Drawing words from the wrong well
Do not be overwhelmed by the outstanding results you have. Remember, you have to communicate what you have and know to your audience. If the listening participants are able to grasp the points you want to convey, then you are on the right track. To accomplish this, make sure you do not read from your slides. Be spontaneous with your talk.
3. Leaving your audience at the dock
This means that you left your passengers at the dock. As the captain of the ship, ensure that everyone is on board and ready to head for a journey to the sea. Get your audience oriented on what you are trying to present — let them see where you are heading to. Have a clear transition between slides and your thoughts. Leaving the audience wandering somewhere is a big mistake.
4. Losing the audience at sea
When you have brought them all to the sea, don’t let them fall off the ship. This situation could easily happen when you take everything in detail (with all the technicalities). Bear in mind the disparities in expertise inside the room. Do not drown them with details. Tell them only what they need. Get the momentum going through a smooth flow of ideas and warning them if you are about to end.
5. Presenting a slide no one reads
I am guilty of this. This is like serving pork steak to a vegetarian. Leave out the absurd ideas and focus on the essentials. Serve the audience a buffet of slides following the proper format — observing the number of lines in a slide, the font size, and the images that must be in it. For the buffet to be sumptuous, get the color combination correct. Dark texts to a dark background is a big no-no!
6. Presenting a slide no one remembers
Make your slides count and last. Make the audience own it. It is more of quality than quantity.
7. Not taking Murphy’s Law into the scene
Murphy’s Law has to be taken into account. What goes wrong, could go wrong. Prepare before the presentation by coming in early.
8. Not preparing enough
This is related to no. 7. Prepare for the consequences to happen. Memorize what is needed to be memorized. You do not want to suddenly become blank in the middle of your presentation.
9. Not paying attention
Pay attention and be sensitive to your audience and their responses. Do not try to avoid the issues that may arise along the way.
10. Losing composure
Very normal to experience this if you are not used to giving presentation. However, you can overcome this through days of practice and preparation.
These are the major critical errors that must be avoided in a scientific presentation. If you have some other ideas to share, leave me some comments below.