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Scientific Presentation Guide: How to Create an Engaging Research Talk

Creating an effective scientific presentation requires developing clear talking points and slide designs that highlight your most important research results..

Scientific presentations are detailed talks that showcase a research project or analysis results. This comprehensive guide reviews everything you need to know to give an engaging presentation for scientific conferences, lab meetings, and PhD thesis talks. From creating your presentation outline to designing effective slides, the tips in this article will give you the tools you need to impress your scientific peers and superiors.

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Step 1. Create a Presentation Outline

The first step to giving a good scientific talk is to create a presentation outline that engages the audience at the start of the talk, highlights only 3-5 main points of your research, and then ends with a clear take-home message. Creating an outline ensures that the overall talk storyline is clear and will save you time when you start to design your slides.

Engage Your Audience

The first part of your presentation outline should contain slide ideas that will gain your audience's attention. Below are a few recommendations for slides that engage your audience at the start of the talk:

  • Create a slide that makes connects your data or presentation information to a shared purpose, such as relevance to solving a medical problem or fundamental question in your field of research
  • Create slides that ask and invite questions
  • Use humor or entertainment

Summary of scientific presentation outline tips

Identify Clear Main Points

After writing down your engagement ideas, the next step is to list the main points that will become the outline slide for your presentation. A great way to accomplish this is to set a timer for five minutes and write down all of the main points and results or your research that you want to discuss in the talk. When the time is up, review the points and select no more than three to five main points that create your talk outline. Limiting the amount of information you share goes a long way in maintaining audience engagement and understanding. 

Main point outline slide example for PhD thesis

Create a Take-Home Message

And finally, you should brainstorm a single take-home message that makes the most important main point stand out. This is the one idea that you want people to remember or to take action on after your talk. This can be your core research discovery or the next steps that will move the project forward.

Step 2. Choose a Professional Slide Theme

After you have a good presentation outline, the next step is to choose your slide colors and create a theme. Good slide themes use between two to four main colors that are accessible to people with color vision deficiencies. Read this article to learn more about choosing the best scientific color palettes .

You can also choose templates that already have an accessible color scheme. However, be aware that many PowerPoint templates that are available online are too cheesy for a scientific audience. Below options to download professional scientific slide templates that are designed specifically for academic conferences, research talks, and graduate thesis defenses.

Free Scientific Presentation Templates for Download

Step 3. Design Your Slides

Designing good slides is essential to maintaining audience interest during your scientific talk. Follow these four best practices for designing your slides:

  • Keep it simple: limit the amount of information you show on each slide
  • Use images and illustrations that clearly show the main points with very little text. 
  • Read this article to see research slide example designs for inspiration
  • When you are using text, try to reduce the scientific jargon that is unnecessary. Text on research talk slides needs to be much more simple than the text used in scientific publications (see example below).
  • Use appear/disappear animations to break up the details into smaller digestible bites
  • Sign up for the free presentation design course to learn PowerPoint animation tricks

Scientific presentation text design tips

Scientific Presentation Design Summary

All of the examples and tips described in this article will help you create impressive scientific presentations. Below is the summary of how to give an engaging talk that will earn respect from your scientific community. 

Step 1. Draft Presentation Outline. Create a presentation outline that clearly highlights the main point of your research. Make sure to start your talk outline with ideas to engage your audience and end your talk with a clear take-home message.

Step 2. Choose Slide Theme. Use a slide template or theme that looks professional, best represents your data, and matches your audience's expectations. Do not use slides that are too plain or too cheesy.

Step 3. Design Engaging Slides. Effective presentation slide designs use clear data visualizations and limits the amount of information that is added to each slide. 

And a final tip is to practice your presentation so that you can refine your talking points. This way you will also know how long it will take you to cover the most essential information on your slides. Thank you for choosing Simplified Science Publishing as your science communication resource and good luck with your presentations!

Interested in free design templates and training?

Explore scientific illustration templates and courses by creating a Simplified Science Publishing Log In. Whether you are new to data visualization design or have some experience, these resources will improve your ability to use both basic and advanced design tools.

Interested in reading more articles on scientific design? Learn more below:

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Data Storytelling Techniques: How to Tell a Great Data Story in 4 Steps

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Best Science PowerPoint Templates and Slide Design Examples

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Free Research Poster Templates and Tutorials

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How to Create an Engaging Science Presentation: A Quick Guide

We’ve all been there – rushing to put slides together for an upcoming talk, filling them with bullet points and text that we want to remember to cover. We aren’t sure exactly what the audience will want to know or how much detail to include, so we default to putting ALL the details in that might be needed. But such efforts often result in presentations that are too long, too confusing, and difficult for both ourselves and our audiences to navigate.

Today I gave a workshop to public health graduate students about how to create more engaging science presentations and talks. I’ve summarized the main takeaways below. I hope this quick guide will be useful to you as you prepare for your next science talk or presentation!

Creating an Engaging Science Presentation

The best science talks start with a process of simplifying – peeling back the layers of information and detail to get at the one core idea that you want to communicate. Over the course of your talk, you may present 2-3 key messages that relate to, demonstrate, provide examples of or underpin this idea. (Three is a nice round number of messages or takeaways that your audience will be able to remember!) But stick to one big idea. Trying to communicate too much in a presentation or talk will overwhelm your audience, and they may walk away without a good memory of any of the ideas you presented.

Once you’ve settled on your one big idea, you can develop a theme that will pervade every aspect of your talk. This theme might be a defining element of your big idea and something that can tie all of your data or talking points together.  Your theme should inform the examples, anecdotes and analogies that you use to make the science concepts you present more accessible. It should also inform your slides’ very design – the colors, visuals, layout and content flow.

If you have trouble identifying your big idea and your theme, you can try using what scientist and science author Randy Olson calls the “Dobzhansky Template.” Fill in the blanks of this statement: “ Nothing in [your talk topic, research topic or big idea] makes sense, except in the light of [your theme!] .”

Here’s an example for you: “Nothing in the creation of engaging science talks makes sense except in the light of people’s need for personal connection .” With this statement, I’m identifying a key aspect, a unifying theme, for my talk (or blog post) on how to create engaging science talks. We all crave personal connection. Yes, even to the speakers of science talks we listen to! What does this mean in terms of what we want or expect from these speakers? It means we want storytelling . We want to hear their stories, know their background, hear about their struggles and triumphs! We want to be able to step into their shoes and see what they saw. We want to interact with them.

Find your big idea

Tell a Story

Narratives engage more than facts. By telling a story , using suspense and characters to pull people through your presentation, you will capture and keep their attention for longer. People also remember information presented in a story format better than they do information presented as disparate facts or bullet points.

“Story is a pull strategy. If your story is good enough, people—of their own free will—come to the conclusion they can trust you and the message you bring.” – Annette Simmons

Storytelling is a powerful science communication tool. In storytelling, both the storyteller and the listener or reader contribute to the story’s meaning through their interpretations, feelings and emotions. Liz Neeley, former executive director of The Story Collider, once said: “Science communicators frequently fail to understand that a feeling is almost never conquered with a fact.”

Stories are exciting. They elicit emotions. They help foster a personal connection between the storyteller and the listener, and a connection between the listener and the topic, characters or ideas presented in the story.

But what IS a story? As humans, we excel at recognizing a story when we hear one, but defining a story’s key characteristics is more difficult than you might think. If you ask anyone to explain what makes for a good story, they likely will have a hard time explaining it.

In her fantastic book Wired for Story , Lisa Cron starts by explaining what a story is NOT.

It is not plot – that is just what happens in the story.

It is not characters , although characters are critical components of storytelling, even if they are not human or even alive. Cells and molecules could be the characters of your next science talk!

It is not suspense or conflict , although these elements get us closer to what defines a good story. But just because your talk builds suspense does not necessarily make it an engaging story. What if we don’t identify with your characters?

The truth is that the key defining element of story is internal change . Think of how every Aesop’s fable communicates a moral or lesson that the main character learned from some journey. As Lisa Cron writes, “A story is how what happens affects someone who is trying to achieve what turns out to be a difficult goal, and how he or she changes as a result.” The key here is the part about “how he or she changes.” A great story calls characters to a great adventure, but the adventure doesn’t leave them just as they were before. The adventure – like a scientific discovery that took years of experimentation (and failure) in the lab – leads to an internal change, in perspective or knowledge or behavior, as a result of conflicts overcome.

This is the secret of storytelling. A story asks characters to change and grow, and so the scientists in our stories must change and grow, discover new things about themselves and overcome challenges that force them to adopt new perspectives. So if you are giving a science talk about your own research, this might look like telling stories about your own struggles, growths and changes in perspective as you made your journey to discovery!

How can you bring a story of internal change to your next science presentation or talk?

What is one of the most common mistakes people make when creating slides to accompany a science talk? They use WAY too much text, and they use visuals as an afterthought. Worse yet, they use visuals that are copyrighted without attribution. They use stock imagery that reinforces stereotypes. They use visuals pasted from a Google search that don’t help the viewer understand or interpret what is said or written on the slides.

Visuals can be a powerful tool to advance audience learning or engagement during your science talks. You can use visuals to provide concrete examples of concepts you are talking about. You can use imagery that sparks thought or emotion. You can use visuals that reinforce your BIG idea or the theme of your talk, in a way that will make your talk more memorable for them. Yes, you might need to use a scientific figure, graph, chart or data visualization here and there if you are giving a more technical scientific talk, and that’s ok as long as you also talk the audience through this visual. Don’t assume they can listen to you talk about something different while also taking the time to interpret the message in this graphic or visualization – they can’t.

The same goes for text. You are demanding way too much brainpower of your audience to expect them to listen to you while also reading your slides. And if you are saying the same things as are written on your slides, they will grow bored. Simple visual aids used the right way, however, can delight your audience and help them better understand what you are saying.

Consider working with a professional artist or designer to create visuals for the slides of your next science talk!  They excel at creating visuals that capture people’s attention, curiosity and emotions. And if you do this, your visuals will perfectly match what you are trying to communicate in words, boosting learning and understanding.

Foster Interaction

A good science talk or presentation gives the audience opportunities to interact with you! This could be through questions, activities, discussions or thought experiments. Let the audience explore your data or interpretations with you. They will be more engaged and likely trust you more as a result, because they felt heard .

Foster interaction with an activity


Most great science speakers make themselves vulnerable in a way – they tell personal stories of struggles, growth and discovery. Personal stories are engaging. They also help the audience care about what the speaker has to say.

It can be scary to talk about yourself, especially for a scientist who has been trained to focus solely on the data. But the humans listening to your talk or presentation crave human connection. They will also grab hold of anything that helps them better relate to you. Give them that in the form of personal stories of obstacles overcome, of personal lessons learned, of work-life balance, of your fears and passions. Better yet, tell personal stories that reinforce your theme and show the power of your big idea!


Do you have other strategies for how you make your science talks and presentations more engaging? Let me know in the comments below!

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About the author: paige jarreau.

Paige Jarreau

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  • ACS Publications

10 Keys to an Engaging Scientific Presentation

  • May 31, 2018

What makes an engaging scientific presentation? Georgia Tech Professor Will Ratcliff uses a method based on the style of nature documentary presenter David Attenborough. Ratcliff’s approach looks to capture an audience’s natural curiosity by using engaging visuals and simple storytelling techniques. Here are his 10 keys to an engaging scientific presentation: 1) Be an Entertainer First: […]

10 Keys to an Engaging Scientific Presentation

What makes an engaging scientific presentation? Georgia Tech Professor Will Ratcliff  uses a method based on the style of nature documentary presenter David Attenborough. Ratcliff’s approach looks to capture an audience’s natural curiosity by using engaging visuals and simple storytelling techniques.

Here are his 10 keys to an engaging scientific presentation:

1) Be an Entertainer First : Before your science can wow your audience, they have to understand it. Before they can understand it, you must engage them with what you’re saying. Look at your presentation from your audience’s perspective and think about how they’ll relate to your material. Focus on presenting your science in a way that engages and entertains as it explains.

2) Be a Storyteller, Not a Lecturer : Don’t assume that your audience knows your field. Tell the story of your science: identify the big picture backdrop, your specific research questions, how you answer those questions, and how it affects the way we now think about the big picture.

3) Prioritize Clarity : If the audience doesn’t understand every word you use, they’ll stop paying attention, and you may never win them back. Your goal is to never lose their attention in the first place, so make an effort to be clear and have a simple narrative arc to your talk.

4) Mind Your Transitions: The easiest place to lose your audience’s focus is when you move from one slide to another. Practice the transitions in your talk to make sure the link between the ideas of one slide and the next remains clear.

5) Keep Complete Sentences Out of Your Slides: Keep the text in your slides to a minimum. Instead, use compelling visual to hold your audience’s attention while you speak.

6) Animations Are Your Friend: You can use animations to reveal new details on your slide as they become relevant to what you are saying. That way you get to control what your audience is seeing, minimizing distraction and putting laser pointers out of a job. Note: never use silly and unnecessary animations, like spinning or scrolling text, this will just annoy your audience.

7) Get Excited: If you’re not excited and energetic about your work, your audience won’t be either.

8) Look at the Audience: Don’t stare at the floor, the ceiling, or your slides while you’re presenting. Look directly at your audience, or if you’re nervous, toward the back of the lecture hall. This will help you connect with your audience.

9) Be Wary of Jokes: Scientific talks are serious by nature and you have more to lose than to gain. If a joke is poorly timed or if you misjudge an audience, you risk alienating them. Play it safe and find other ways to be entertaining unless you know your audience well.

10) Leave the Laser Pointer at Home: Laser pointers are distracting. If you feel you need one to guide your audience through a slide, that’s a sign your slide is too cluttered.

Want More Tips on Giving an Engaging Scientific Presentation? Check Out: 3 Elements of a Great Scientific Talk

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5 tips for giving a good scientific presentation

How to give a good scientific presentation

What is a scientific presentation?

What is the objective of a scientific presentation, why is giving scientific presentations necessary, how to give a scientific presentation, tip 1: prepare during the days leading up to your talk, tip 2: deal with presentation nerves by practicing simple exercises, tip 3: deliver your talk with intention, tip 4: be adaptable and willing to adjust your presentation, tip 5: conclude your talk and manage questions confidently, concluding thoughts, other sources to help you give a good scientific presentation, frequently asked questions about giving scientific presentations, related articles.

You have made the slides for your scientific presentation. Now, you need to prepare to deliver your talk. But, giving an oral scientific presentation can be nerve-wracking. How do you ensure that you deliver your talk well, and leave a good impression on the audience?

Mastering the skill of giving a good scientific presentation will stand you in good stead for the rest of your career, as it may lead to new collaborations or even new employment opportunities.

In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to give a good oral scientific presentation, including

  • Why giving scientific presentations is important for your career;
  • How to prepare before giving a scientific presentation;
  • How to keep the audience engaged and deliver your talk with confidence.

The following tips are a product of our research into the literature on giving scientific presentations as well as our own experiences as scientists in giving and attending talks. We advise on how to make a scientific presentation in another post.

A scientific presentation is a talk or poster where you describe the findings of your research to others. An oral presentation usually involves presenting slides to an audience. You may give an oral scientific presentation at a conference, give an invited seminar at another institution, or give a talk as part of an interview. A PhD thesis defense is one type of scientific presentation.

➡️ Read about how to prepare an excellent thesis defense

The objective of a scientific presentation is to communicate the science such that the audience:

  • Learns something new;
  • Leaves with a clear understanding of the key message of your research;
  • Has confidence in you and your work;
  • Remembers you afterward for the right reasons.

3 benefits of giving scientific presentations.

As a scientist, one of your responsibilities is disseminating your scientific knowledge by giving presentations. Communicating your research to others is an altruistic act, as it is an opportunity to teach others about your research findings, and the knowledge you have gained while researching your topic.

Giving scientific presentations confers many career benefits , such as:

  • Having the opportunity to share your ideas and to have insightful conversations with other scientists. For example, a thoughtful question may create a new direction for your research.
  • Gaining recognition for your work and generating excitement for your research program can help you to forge new collaborations and to obtain more citations of your papers. It's your chance to impress some of the biggest names in your field, build your reputation as a scientist, and get more people interested in your work.
  • Improving your future employment prospects by getting presentation experience in high-stakes settings and by having talks listed on your academic CV.

➡️ Learn how to write an academic CV

You might have just 10 minutes for your talk. But those 10 minutes are your golden ticket. To make them shine, you'll need to put in some homework. You need to think about the story you want to tell , create engaging slides , and practice how you're going to deliver it.

Why all this effort? Because the rewards are potentially huge. Imagine speaking to the top names in your field, boosting your visibility, and getting more eyes on your work. It's more than just a talk; it's your chance to showcase who you are and what you do.

Here we share 5 tips for giving effective scientific presentations.

  • Prepare adequately for your talk on the days leading up to it
  • Deal with presentation nerves
  • Deliver your talk with intention
  • Be adaptable
  • Conclude your talk with confidence

You should prepare for your talk with the seriousness it deserves and recognize the potential it holds for your career advancement. Here are our suggestions:

  • Rehearse your talk multiple times to ensure smooth flow. Know the order of your slides and key transitions without memorizing every word. Practice your speech as though you are discussing with friendly and attentive listeners.
  • Record your speech and listen back to yourself giving your talk while doing household chores or while going for a walk. This will help you remember the important points of your talk and feel more comfortable with the flow of it on the day.
  • Anticipate potential questions that may arise during your talk, write down your responses to those questions, and practice them aloud.
  • Back up your presentation in cloud storage and on a USB key. Bring your laptop with you on the day of your talk, if needed.
  • Know the time and location of your talk. Familiarize yourself with the room, if you can. Introduce yourself to the moderator before the session begins.
  • Giving a talk is a performance, so preparing yourself physically and mentally is essential. Prioritize good sleep and hydration, and eat healthy, nourishing food on the day of your talk. Plan your attire to be both professional and comfortable.

It’s natural to feel nervous before your talk, but you want to harness that energy to present your work with confidence. Here are some ways to manage your stress levels:

  • Remember that your audience want to listen to you and learn from you. Believe that your audience will be kind, friendly, and interested, rather than bored and skeptical.
  • Breathing slow and deep before your talk calms the mind and nervous system. Psychologist Amy Cuddy recommends practicing open, confident postures while sitting and standing to help you get into a positive frame of mind.
  • Fight off impostor syndrome with positive affirmations. You’ve got this! Remember that you know more about your research than anyone else in the room and you are giving your talk to teach others about it.

Giving your talk with confidence is crucial for your credibility as a scientist. Focusing on your delivery helps ensure that your audience remembers and believes what you say. Here are some techniques to try:

  • Before beginning, remember your professional goals and the benefits of giving your presentation. Start with a smile and exhale deeply.
  • Memorize a simple opening. After the moderator introduces you, pause and take a breath. Welcome the audience, thank them for coming, and introduce yourself. You don’t need to read the title of your talk. But briefly, say something like, “today I’m going to talk to you about why [topic] is important and [what I hope you will learn from this talk]” in 1-2 sentences. Preparing your opening will settle your nerves and prevent you from starting your talk on a tangential topic, ensuring you stay on time.
  • Project confidence outwardly, even if you feel nervous. Stand up tall with your shoulders back and make eye contact with individuals in the audience. Move your focus around the room, so everyone in the audience feels included.
  • Maintain open body language and face the audience as much as possible, not your slides.
  • Project your voice as much as you can so that people at the back of the room can hear you. Enunciate your words, avoid mumbling, and don’t trail off awkwardly.
  • Varying your vocal delivery and intonation will make your talk more interesting and help the audience pay attention, particularly when you want to emphasize key points or transitions.
  • Pausing for dramatic effect at crucial moments can help you relax and remember your message, as well as being an effective engagement device.
  • A laser pointer can be off-putting for the audience if you are prone to having a shaky hand when nervous. Use a laser pointer only to emphasize information on the slide while providing an explanation. If you design your slides thoughtfully , you won’t need to use a laser pointer.

Not all parts of your talk may go according to plan. Here are some ways to adapt to hitches during your talk:

  • Handle talk disruptions gracefully. If you make a mistake, or a technical issue occurs during your talk, remember that it’s okay to skip something and move on without apologizing.
  • If you forget to mention something but the audience hasn’t noticed, don’t point it out! They don’t need to know.
  • As you give your talk, be time-conscious, and watch the moderator for signals that the time is about to expire. If you realize you won’t have time to discuss all your slides, skip the less important ones. Adjust your presentation on the fly to finish on time, prioritizing content as needed.
  • If you run out of time completely, just stop. You don’t have to give a conclusion, but you do need to stop on time! Practicing your talk should prevent this situation.

The ending of your talk is important for emphasizing your key message and ensuring the audience leave with a positive impression of you and your work. Here are some pointers.

  • Conclude your talk with a memorized closing statement that summarizes the key take-home message of your research. After making your closing statement, end your talk with a simple “Thank you”. Then pause and wait for the applause. You don’t need to ask if the audience has questions because the moderator will call for questions on your behalf.
  • When you receive a question, pause, then repeat the question. This ensures the whole audience understands the question and gives you time to calmly consider your answer.
  • In a talk on attaining confidence in your scientific presentations, Michael Alley suggests that if you don’t know the answer to the question, then emphasize what you do know. Say something like, “Although I can’t fully answer your question, I can say [this about the topic].”
  • Approach the Q&A with interest rather than anxiety by reframing it as an opportunity to further share your knowledge. Being curious, instead of feeling fearful, can help you shine during what might be the most stressful part of your presentation.

Communicating your research effectively is a key skill for early career scientists to learn. Taking ample time to prepare and practice your presentation is an investment in your scientific development.

But here's the good part: all that effort pays off. Think of your talk as not just a presentation, but as a way to show off what you and your research are all about. Giving a compelling scientific presentation will raise your professional profile as a scientist, lead to more citations of your work, and may even help you obtain a future academic job.

But most importantly of all, giving talks contributes to science, and sharing your knowledge is an act of generosity to the scientific community.

➡️ Questions to ask yourself before you make your talk

➡️ How to give a great scientific talk

1) Have a positive mindset. To help with nerves, breathe deeply and keep in mind that you are an authority on your topic. 2) Be prepared. Have a short list of points for each slide and know the key transition points of your talk. Practice your talk to ensure it flows smoothly. 3) Be well-rested before your talk and eat a light meal on the day of your presentation. A talk is a performance. 4) Project your voice and vary your vocal intonation and pitch to retain the interest of the audience. Take pauses at key moments, for emphasis. 5) Anticipate questions that audience members could ask, and prepare answers for them.

The goal of a scientific presentation is that the audience remembers the key outcomes of your research and that they leave with a good impression of you and your science.

Take a moment to exhale deeply and collect your thoughts after the moderator has introduced you. Don’t read your talk's title. Instead, introduce yourself, thank the audience for attending, and provide a warm welcome. Then say something along the lines of, "Today I'm going to talk to you about why [topic] is important and [what I hope you will learn from this presentation].” A rehearsed opening will ensure that you start your talk on a confident note.

Prepare a memorable closing statement that emphasizes the key message of your talk. Then end with a simple “Thank you”.

Preparation is key. Practice many times to familiarize yourself with the content of your presentation. Before giving your talk, breathe slowly and deeply, and remind yourself that you are the expert on your topic. When giving your talk, stand up tall and use open body language. Remember to project your voice, and make eye contact with members of the audience.

how to make a good science presentation

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  • 01 December 2021

How to tell a compelling story in scientific presentations

  • Bruce Kirchoff 0

Bruce Kirchoff is a botanist and storyteller at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in North Carolina, USA. His new book is Presenting Science Concisely .

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

You have full access to this article via your institution.

Adhesive notes arranged as a flow chart on a white board.

Structuring your presentations with care can help you to clearly communicate to your audience. Credit: Getty

Scientific presentations are too often boring and ineffective. Their focus on techniques and data do not make it easy for the audience to understand the main point of the research.

If you want to reach beyond the narrow group of scientists who work in your specific area, you need to tell your audience members why they should be interested. Three things can help you to be engaging and convey the importance of your research to a wide audience. I had been teaching scientific communication for several years when I was approached to write a book about improving scientific presentations 1 . These are my three most important tips.

State your main finding in your title

The best titles get straight to the point. They tell the audience what you found, and they let them know what your talk will be about. Throughout this article, I will use titles from Nature papers published in the past two years as examples that will stand in for presentation titles. This is because Nature articles have a similar goal of attempting to make discipline-specific research available to a broader audience of scientists. Take, for example: ‘Supply chain diversity buffers cities against food shocks’ 2 .

A great title tells the reader exactly what’s new and precisely conveys the main result, as this one demonstrates. A more conventional title would have been ‘Effect of supply chain diversity on food shocks’, which omits the direction of the effect — so mainly scientists who are interested in your research area will be attracted to the talk. Others will wonder whether the talk will be a waste of time: maybe there was no effect at all.

how to make a good science presentation

Collection: Careers toolkit

Another example of a good title is: ‘Organic management promotes natural pest control through altered plant resistance to insects’ 3 .

This title ensures that the audience members know that the talk will be about the beneficial effects of organic crop management before they hear it. They also know that organic management increases plant resistance to insects. This title is much better than one such as: ‘Effects of organic pest management on plant insect resistance’. This title tells the audience the general area of the talk but does not give them the main result.

Finally, look at: ‘A highly magnetized and rapidly rotating white dwarf as small as the Moon’ 4 .

Good titles can just as easily be written for descriptive work as for experimental results. All you need to do is tell your audience what you found. Be as specific as possible. Compare this title with a more conventional one for the same work: ‘Use of the Zwicky Transient Facility to search for short period objects below the main white dwarf cooling sequence’. This title might be of interest to astronomers interested in using this facility, but is unlikely to attract anyone beyond them.

‘But’ is good — use it for dramatic effect

The contradiction implied by the word ‘but’ is one of the most powerful tools a scientist can use 5 . Contradictions introduce problems and provide dramatic effect, tension and a reason to keep listening.

Without such contradictions, the talk will consist of a bunch of results strung together in a seemingly endless and mind-numbing list. We can think of this list as a series of ‘and’ statements: “We did this and this and ran this experiment and found this result and . . . and . . . and.”

Contrast this with a structure that begins with a few important facts, tethered by ands, and then introduces the problem to be solved. Finally, ‘therefore’ can introduce results or subsequent actions. That structure would look like this: ‘X is the current state of knowledge, and we know Y. But Z problem remains. Therefore, we carried out ABC research.’ The introduction of even one contradiction wakes up people in the audience and helps them to focus on the results.

how to make a good science presentation

Collection: Conferences

A paper published earlier this year on SARS-CoV-2 and host protein synthesis provides an excellent example of the narrative form using ‘and’, ‘but’ and ‘therefore’ 6 . In the example below, I have shortened the abstract and simplified the transitions, but maintained the authors’ original structure 6 . Although they did not use ‘but’ or ‘therefore’ in their abstract, the existence of these terms is clearly implied. I have made them explicit in the following rendition.

“Coronaviruses have developed a variety of mechanisms to repress host messenger RNA translation and to allow the translation of viral mRNA and block the cellular immune response. But a comprehensive picture of the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on cellular gene expression is lacking. Therefore, we combine RNA sequencing, ribosome profiling and metabolic labelling of newly synthesized RNA to comprehensively define the mechanisms that are used by SARS-CoV-2 to shut off cellular protein synthesis.”

In this example, background information is given in the first sentence, linked by a series of conjunctions. Then the problem is introduced — this is the contradiction that comes with ‘but’. The solution to this problem is given in the next sentence (and introduced by using ‘therefore’). This structure makes the text interesting. It will do the same for your presentations.

Use repeated problems and solutions to create a story

Use the power of contradiction to maintain audience engagement throughout your talk. You can string together a series of problems and solutions (buts and therefores) to create a story that leads to your main result. The result highlighted in your title will help you to focus your talk so that the solutions you present lead to this overarching result.

Here is the general pattern:

1. Present the first part of your results.

2. Introduce a problem that remains.

3. Provide a solution to this problem by presenting more results.

4. Introduce the next problem.

5. Present the results that address this problem.

6. Continue this ‘problem and solution’ process through your presentation.

7. End by restating your main finding and summarize how it arises from your intermediate results.

The SARS-CoV-2 abstract 6 uses this pattern of repeated problems (buts) and solutions (therefores). I have modified the wording to clarify these sections.

1. Result 1: SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to a global reduction in translation, but we found that viral transcripts are not preferentially translated.

2. Problem 1: How then does viral mRNA comes to dominate the mRNA pool?

3. Solution 1: Accelerated degradation of cytosolic cellular mRNAs facilitates viral takeover of the mRNA pool in infected cells.

4. Problem 2: How is the translation of induced transcripts affected by SARS-CoV-2 infection?

5. Solution 2: The translation of induced transcripts (including innate immune genes) is impaired.

6. Problem 3: How is translation impaired? What is the mechanism?

7. Solution 3: Impairment is probably mediated by inhibiting the export of nuclear mRNA from the nucleus, which prevents newly transcribed cellular mRNA from accessing ribosomes.

8. Final summary: Our results demonstrate a multipronged strategy used by SARS-CoV-2 to take over the translation machinery and suppress host defences.

Using these three basic tips, you can create engaging presentations that will hold the attention of your audience and help them to remember you. For young scientists, especially, that is the most important thing the audience can take away from your talk.

Nature 600 , S88-S89 (2021)


This article is part of Nature Events Guide , an editorially independent supplement. Advertisers have no influence over the content.

This is an article from the Nature Careers Community, a place for Nature readers to share their professional experiences and advice. Guest posts are encouraged .

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How to Prepare Your Scientific Presentation

how to make a good science presentation

Since the dawn of time, humans were eager to find explanations for the world around them. At first, our scientific method was very simplistic and somewhat naive. We observed and reflected. But with the progressive evolution of research methods and thinking paradigms, we arrived into the modern era of enlightenment and science. So what represents the modern scientific method and how can you accurately share and present your research findings to others? These are the two fundamental questions we attempt to answer in this post. 

What is the Scientific Method?

To better understand the concept, let’s start with this scientific method definition from the International Encyclopedia of Human Geography :

The scientific method is a way of conducting research, based on theory construction, the generation of testable hypotheses, their empirical testing, and the revision of theory if the hypothesis is rejected. 

Essentially, a scientific method is a cumulative term, used to describe the process any scientist uses to objectively interpret the world (and specific phenomenon) around them. 

The scientific method is the opposite of beliefs and cognitive biases — mostly irrational, often unconscious, interpretations of different occurrences that we lean on as a mental shortcut. 

The scientific method in research, on the contrary, forces the thinker to holistically assess and test our approaches to interpreting data. So that they could gain consistent and non-arbitrary results. 

steps to a scientific presentation

The common scientific method examples are:

  • Systematic observation 
  • Experimentation
  • Inductive and deductive reasoning
  • Formation and testing of hypotheses and theories

All of the above are used by both scientists and businesses to make better sense of the data and/or phenomenon at hand. 

The Evolution of the Scientific Method 

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy , ancient thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle are believed to be the forefathers of the scientific method. They were among the first to try to justify and refine their thought process using the scientific method experiments and deductive reasoning. 

Both developed specific systems for knowledge acquisition and processing. For example, the Platonic way of knowledge emphasized reasoning as the main method for learning but downplayed the importance of observation. The Aristotelian corpus of knowledge, on the contrary, said that we must carefully observe the natural world to discover its fundamental principles. 

In medieval times, thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, and Andreas Vesalius among many others worked on further clarifying how we can obtain proven knowledge through observation and induction. 

The 16th–18th centuries are believed to have given the greatest advances in terms of scientific method application. We, humans, learned to better interpret the world around us from mechanical, biological, economic, political, and medical perspectives. Thinkers such as Galileo Galilei, Francis Bacon, and their followers also increasingly switched to a tradition of explaining everything through mathematics, geometry, and numbers. 

Up till today, mathematical and mechanical explanations remain the core parts of the scientific method. 

Why is the Scientific Method Important Today? 

Because our ancestors didn’t have as much data as we do. We now live in the era of paramount data accessibility and connectivity, where over 2.5 quintillions of data are produced each day. This has tremendously accelerated knowledge creation.

But, at the same time, such overwhelming exposure to data made us more prone to external influences, biases, and false beliefs. These can jeopardize the objectivity of any research you are conducting. 

Scientific findings need to remain objective, verifiable, accurate, and consistent. Diligent usage of scientific methods in modern business and science helps ensure proper data interpretation, results replication, and undisputable validity. 

6 Steps of the Scientific Method

Over the course of history, the scientific method underwent many interactions. Yet, it still carries some of the integral steps our ancestors used to analyze the world such as observation and inductive reasoning. However, the modern scientific method steps differ a bit. 

6 steps of the scientific method presentation

1. Make an Observation 

An observation serves as a baseline for your research. There are two important characteristics for a good research observation:

  • It must be objective, not subjective. 
  • It must be verifiable, meaning others can say it’s true or false with this. 

For example, This apple is red (objective/verifiable observation). This apple is delicious (subjective, harder-to-verify observation).

2. Develop a Hypothesis

Observations tell us about the present or past. But the goal of science is to glean in the future. A scientific hypothesis is based on prior knowledge and produced through reasoning as an attempt to descriptive a future event.

Here are characteristics of a good scientific hypothesis: 

  • General and tentative idea
  • Agrees with all available observations
  • Testable and potentially falsifiable

Remember: If we state our hypothesis to indicate there is no effect, our hypothesis is a cause-and-effect relationship . A hypothesis, which asserts no effect, is called a null hypothesis. 

3. Make a Prediction 

A hypothesis is a mental “launchpad” for predicting the existence of other phenomena or quantitative results of new observations.

Going back to an earlier example here’s how to turn it into a hypothesis and a potential prediction for proving it. For example: If this apple is red, other apples of this type should be red too. 

Your goal is then to decide which variables can help you prove or disprove your hypothesis and prepare to test these. 

4. Perform an Experiment 

Collect all the information around variables that will help you prove or disprove your prediction. According to the scientific method, a hypothesis has to be discarded or modified if its predictions are clearly and repeatedly incompatible with experimental results.

lab worker performing an experiment

Yes, you may come up with an elegant theory. However, if your hypothetical predictions cannot be backed by experimental results, you cannot use them as a valid explanation of the phenomenon. 

5. Analyze the Results of the Experiment

To come up with proof for your hypothesis, use different statistical analysis methods to interpret the meaning behind your data.

Remember to stay objective and emotionally unattached to your results. If 95 apples turned red, but 5 were yellow, does it disprove your hypothesis? Not entirely. It may mean that you didn’t account for all variables and must adapt the parameters of your experiment. 

Here are some common data analysis techniques, used as a part of a scientific method: 

  • Statistical analysis
  • Cause and effect analysis (see cause and effect analysis slides )
  • Regression analysis
  • Factor analysis
  • Cluster analysis
  • Time series analysis
  • Diagnostic analysis
  • Root cause analysis (see root cause analysis slides )

6. Draw a Conclusion 

Every experiment has two possible outcomes:

  • The results correspond to the prediction
  • The results disprove the prediction 

If that’s the latter, as a scientist you must discard the prediction then and most likely also rework the hypothesis based on it. 

How to Give a Scientific Presentation to Showcase Your Methods

Whether you are doing a poster session, conference talk, or follow-up presentation on a recently published journal article, most of your peers need to know how you’ve arrived at the presented conclusions.

In other words, they will probe your scientific method for gaps to ensure that your results are fair and possible to replicate. So that they could incorporate your theories in their research too. Thus your scientific presentation must be sharp, on-point, and focus clearly on your research approaches. 

Below we propose a quick framework for creating a compelling scientific presentation in PowerPoint (+ some helpful templates!). 

1. Open with a Research Question 

Here’s how to start a scientific presentation with ease: share your research question. On the first slide, briefly recap how your thought process went. Briefly state what was the underlying aim of your research: Share your main hypothesis, mention if you could prove or disprove them. 

It might be tempting to pack a lot of ideas into your first slide but don’t. Keep the opening of your presentation short to pique the audience’s initial interest and set the stage for the follow-up narrative.

scientific presentation opening slide example

2. Disclose Your Methods

Whether you are doing a science poster presentation or conference talk, many audience members would be curious to understand how you arrived at your results. Deliver this information at the beginning of your presentation to avoid any ambiguities. 

Here’s how to organize your science methods on a presentation: 

  • Do not use bullet points or full sentences. Use diagrams and structured images to list the methods
  • Use visuals and iconography to use metaphors where possible.
  • Organize your methods by groups e.g. quantifiable and non-quantifiable

Finally, when you work on visuals for your presentation — charts, graphs, illustrations, etc. — think from the perspective of a subject novice. Does the image really convey the key information around the subject? Does it help break down complex ideas?

slide describing a summary of scientific methods

3. Spotlight the Results 

Obviously, the research results will be your biggest bragging right. However, don’t over-pack your presentation with a long-winded discussion of your findings and how revolutionary these may be for the community. 

Rather than writing a wall of text, do this instead:

  • Use graphs with large axis values/numbers to showcase the findings in great detail
  • Prioritize formats that are known to everybody (e.g. odds ratios, Kaplan Meier curves, etc.)
  • Do not include more than 5 lines of plain text per slide 

Overall, when you feel that the results slide gets too cramped, it’s best to move the data to a new one. 

Also, as you work on organizing data on your scientific presentation PowerPoint template , think if there are obvious limitations and gaps. If yes, make sure you acknowledge them during your speech.

4. Mention Study Limitations 

The scientific method mandates objectivity. That’s why every researcher must clearly state what was excluded from their study. Remember: no piece of scientific research is truly universal and has certain boundaries. However, when you fail to personally state those, others might struggle to draw the line themselves and replicate your results. Then, if they fail to do so, they’d question the viability of your research.

5. Conclude with a Memorable Takeaway Message 

Every experienced speaker will tell you that the audience best retains the information they hear first and last. Most people will attend more than one scientific presentation during the day. 

So if you want the audience to better remember your talk, brainstorm a take-home message for the last slide of your presentation. Think of your last slide texts as an elevator pitch — a short, concluding message, summarizing your research.

To Conclude

Today we have no shortage of research and scientific methods for testing and proving our hypothesis. However, unlike our ancestors, most scientists experience deeper scrutiny when it comes to presenting and explaining their findings to others. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your scientific presentation clearly relays the aim, vector, and thought process behind your research.

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Designing PowerPoint Slides for a Scientific Presentation

In the video below, we show you the key principles for designing effective PowerPoint slides for a scientific presentation.

Using examples from actual science presentations, we illustrate the following principles:

  • Create each slide as a single message unit
  • Explicitly state that single message on the slide
  • Avoid bullet points-opt for word tables
  • Use simple diagrams
  • Signal steps in biological processes
  • Annotate key biological structures
  • Annotate data in tables and graphs

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Designing Effective Scientific Presentations

  • Duration: 42:08

00:00:00.17 You're probably tuning into this talk because you're interested in improving your speaking skills 00:00:03.26 and you know, let's face it, none of us really have had a lot of explicit training 00:00:08.20 in presentation as scientists. 00:00:11.03 So, ok, we're not experts. We may not be experts at public speaking, 00:00:16.26 but I would actually suggest to you that we are all experts at listening to talks. 00:00:20.20 Think about the number of hours that each of us has sat in a chair, in a lecture room, 00:00:26.15 in a seminar, in an auditorium, listened to journal clubs, to all kinds of talks, 00:00:33.24 we've spent hours and hours and hours listening to talks. 00:00:37.14 So we're experts at knowing what a good talk is because we know what we want delivered as an audience member. 00:00:44.23 So, if you think about it, why do we go to a talk? 00:00:47.20 Well, we're interested, obviously, in learning some about interesting and novel science. 00:00:52.19 We are going to listen to speakers who we think are credible and knowledgeable 00:00:58.24 and doing novel work. 00:01:01.00 We are responsive to speakers who are enthusiastic and who just keep us awake 00:01:08.28 and we want a talk that is well organized, clear, 00:01:11.11 a talk that we can follow, a talk that's not laden down with jargon 00:01:16.23 and a talk that gives us enough background to understand 00:01:19.12 what's going on, we want to be able to see the data, understand it, interpret it 00:01:23.12 and then make our own decision about the science. 00:01:26.23 So, we're all experts at listening to talks, why can't we just translate what we know 00:01:31.07 we want as an audience member into how we give a talk as individuals. 00:01:37.07 Let's think about something; how many times have we each seen a slide like this. 00:01:41.25 We've seen it a zillion times, right, we're sitting there, in a chair, 00:01:46.06 listening to a seminar, a slide like this comes on. 00:01:49.05 And we have no idea of what to look at. 00:01:52.20 Are we supposed to read all of this text? 00:01:55.07 Are we supposed to look at this figure, or that figure 00:01:58.13 or that figure? 00:01:59.17 We're overwhelmed visually and we've all seen this slide a thousand times. 00:02:02.29 Now, I just want to make a quick disclaimer. 00:02:05.18 This was not my work and I'm not suggesting for a second that the authors of this really gorgeous paper 00:02:12.01 would have shown a slide like that. 00:02:14.24 But, if I were giving a journal club on that topic, I might have produced a slide like this for you 00:02:19.16 in trying to tell you about these data. 00:02:22.07 So, when we think about what we know instinctively is just a disaster, why do we keep doing it 00:02:28.18 again and again and again? 00:02:31.03 I think that we need to know some basic rules about power point 00:02:34.19 and how to structure a talk 00:02:36.13 in order to enable these visuals to work effectively 00:02:39.24 as we're teaching, as we're speaking about our own science, 00:02:44.05 as we're presenting journal clubs. 00:02:45.26 So, what I'm going to do is first of all go through some basics about power point 00:02:48.24 and then we're going to think about how you structure a talk 00:02:52.26 in order to lead a member of the audience through the data 00:02:56.28 in a way that they will understand each piece that you're presenting and 00:03:00.26 be able to really understand what the take-home message is. 00:03:03.05 First of all, what font should you use? 00:03:06.08 It turns out that some of the default fonts in power point and keynote 00:03:10.16 are exactly wrong. The font you should use is a Sans Serif font. 00:03:14.13 What is a Sans Serif font? 00:03:15.03 San Serif fonts are fonts without little doober-hicky lines 00:03:20.06 and stuff at the bottom of letters. 00:03:22.04 And that's to be contrasted with Serif fonts, which have all the little doober-hickies at the bottom of each letter. 00:03:28.19 So, why do you use one and not the other? 00:03:30.20 Well, visual psychophysicists have discovered that using a Sans Serif font when you're projecting text 00:03:39.18 onto a screen like this makes it easier for the audience to read the text 00:03:44.08 quickly. These fonts down here, the Serif fonts, this is the font if you have novel you were going to read it in bed, 00:03:50.17 it's very easy to read. 00:03:52.07 And that's why books are printed with Serif fonts, 00:03:55.03 but you should choose, and there are a range of choices that you can make, 00:03:59.12 one of the Sans Serif fonts for your scientific presentations. 00:04:02.11 How big should your font be? 00:04:04.26 Again, be careful of some of the default font sizes. 00:04:08.16 One of the defaults in Power Point is astronomically huge, 00:04:11.24 bigger than this one right here, it's like 42. 00:04:14.11 It's way too big! You don't need that. 00:04:15.21 So, the range of font sizes that you should use are shown here. 00:04:19.06 Anywhere from 18 down to 36, with one exception. 00:04:24.01 We often, in our scientific presentations, will want to insert a reference to a published paper, 00:04:28.15 which isn't really the focus of the slide, but we want to have it up there 00:04:33.02 for scientific accuracy. 00:04:34.10 So, under those circumstances, you might use a 14 point 00:04:38.12 font, to put your reference at the bottom of the slide. 00:04:42.06 Other than that, just work in this range and you'll be good. 00:04:45.04 Avoid using capital letters. This makes it clear why. 00:04:49.05 It's actually really hard to read all capitols. 00:04:51.16 And secondly, in this age of email, I think we all know that capitalizing everything 00:04:57.19 is the visual equivalent of shouting at someone. 00:05:00.19 So it's just not polite. In addition, when you're thinking about titles 00:05:04.26 or how you would actually capitalize words, 00:05:07.21 use a sentence format. In other words, don't capitalize every word 00:05:11.21 of your title or your text down here. 00:05:15.10 Having capitals of every word slows down the eye and makes it difficult to read. 00:05:20.17 So, remember, the text and the slide is really there for the audience to be able to read quickly 00:05:26.07 and easily. 00:05:27.20 Color schemes are really important and thinking about the background of your slides. 00:05:33.27 Now, we've all seen a lot of slides that have 00:05:37.05 very fancy backgrounds and in fact, 00:05:40.03 you want the simplest possible background. 00:05:42.21 For example, a plain white background with dark letters, 00:05:45.29 either black or blue. 00:05:48.28 That works very well; it's high in contrast 00:05:51.05 and the only thing that appears on the slide is the information that your audience needs 00:05:56.02 to understand this slide in the context of your talk. 00:05:59.21 Avoid using the fancy patterned backgrounds. 00:06:05.03 You don't need your company or university logo 00:06:08.16 on every slide. You do not need a DNA double helix 00:06:11.19 running down every slide. 00:06:12.22 All of that is extraneous. Maybe it might appear on your first slide, 00:06:16.12 but then get rid of it. 00:06:18.08 Streamline it down to as simple as possible and think about the contrast of letters. 00:06:24.08 So dark against light works really well, 00:06:26.17 light against darks works very well. A black background with white letters 00:06:30.12 or bright yellow. Again, high contrast, easy for the audience to read. 00:06:35.12 When should you use which? Well, if you were to give a talk 00:06:39.19 for example, at a very large symposium, with hundreds of people, 00:06:44.06 a very big room, psycophysically, and in terms of the projector, 00:06:49.19 the contrast is greatest if you use a dark background 00:06:52.24 and light letters, under that context. 00:06:55.03 So it's easier to project at high contrast. 00:06:58.10 If you're teaching in a small room, or you're in a circumstance where you're worried about people staying awake, 00:07:07.00 then I would use a white background, with dark letters. 00:07:10.16 That is actually more effective. 00:07:13.13 However, you do want to think about your science. 00:07:15.24 For example, in my science, I use a lot of fluorescence, photomicrographs, where I actually prefer a dark background 00:07:25.20 because the contrast, I want people to be dark adapted so they can really see my data. 00:07:30.22 So in one of my scientific seminars, regardless of whether I'm in a small room or a big room 00:07:35.01 I use a black background. 00:07:36.27 It just works better for my science. 00:07:38.27 There are certain color combinations that you should avoid. Red/green is bad: 00:07:44.04 this is incredibly difficult to look at. In addition, a large fraction of the population is red-green color blind 00:07:51.15 and finally, red is really angry color. I actually saw an entire seminar once 00:07:56.15 with the background color of the slides that was red and 00:08:01.15 I was so agitated by ten minutes into the talk, so avoid that. 00:08:05.02 Other color combinations can be equally bad 00:08:09.07 and this is bad not because the colors are unpleasant 00:08:13.07 but because the contrast here is not big enough 00:08:16.22 for an audience member to actually read 00:08:19.16 the letters against this background. This is important because in science we're often 00:08:24.06 creating, for example, these cartoons, of, for example, of a signal transduction pathway, 00:08:30.19 where you want each protein to be a different color. 00:08:32.03 So we're always looking for a new color for a new protein as we're going through 00:08:36.19 a flow of talk, but we want to make sure that each protein that might in fact be this blue color 00:08:43.14 would then have a label on top of it that's high contrast. For example, for this, it might be black instead of green. 00:08:49.23 Let's think now about how to lay out a slide visually in Power Point 00:08:53.21 so that it's really easy for an audience member to follow the content of your talk. 00:08:59.20 First of all, I strongly recommend that every slide a heading at the top 00:09:04.20 and the best heading is actually a statement, a simple sentence 00:09:08.28 that says in plain english what the bottom line of the slide is. 00:09:13.11 Now you might say, Sue, excuse me, this is not a statement, and you're right 00:09:17.12 ok, busted, this is really going through an outline for this particular talk, but in my science talks 00:09:22.22 every slide is headed by a statement. 00:09:26.10 If you're going to include text in a slide, it's very important to just limit the amount of text. 00:09:32.22 I really, strongly urge you to use no more than two lines of text 00:09:38.16 in a text block. Why is that? 00:09:40.14 The minute you show a big block of text like this, I have lost you as an audience member. 00:09:45.21 You don't know at this point whether you should be reading all of this stuff or listening to me. 00:09:51.03 And if you as an audience member are now distracted and confused about what you should be doing, 00:09:56.21 I as a speaker have lost control of my talk. 00:09:59.25 So, don't use things like this, there's one exception, there might be a wonderful quotation that you want to include in your talk. 00:10:07.05 For example, a quote from The Double Helix or a quote from the beautiful writings of Ramon y Cajal 00:10:15.08 if you're a neurobiologist. And under those circumstances it's great to include the full text. 00:10:20.05 What I recommend you do if you do include a quotation, is rather than read it word by word, 00:10:25.06 instead sort of paraphrase it as you're going along. 00:10:27.13 You might say, well, the reason for limiting blocks of text to just two lines is 00:10:32.01 if it goes on forever, people in the audience are going to have to make this huge effort 00:10:36.08 to read it and that will preclude them from paying attention to what you're saying. 00:10:40.12 So, you can paraphrase a quote, that's very effective, unless it 00:10:43.29 is very poetic and you want to do a dramatic reading, and that's fine too. 00:10:47.21 Lists should be short; try to limit your lists to just three items. 00:10:54.01 Avoid like mad long lists and if you're going to have a list, 00:10:57.24 I strongly recommend that you use the animation feature in PowerPoint 00:11:02.13 to unveil your list one at a time. 00:11:05.22 So, when you're talking about item one in your talk, 00:11:07.17 that will appear. And only when you're ready to talk about item two 00:11:12.28 does that second item appear 00:11:14.24 and likewise, when you're ready to include item three, that will come up as well. 00:11:18.25 Be very generous in a slide with empty space. 00:11:23.01 It's more effective, it's more powerful for the audience. 00:11:26.19 And this is why. If you start to just load your slide with stuff, 00:11:30.11 it's visually overwhelming and often, you can get into a situation, 00:11:35.28 we've all been in seminars before, where something is very, very, very close to the edge of the slide 00:11:41.10 and there's a slight misalignment between the projector 00:11:45.06 and the screen that then results in stuff getting cut off. 00:11:49.16 And we've all been at talks, where someone says "oh, I'm sorry, If you could have seen the slide, 00:11:53.28 then you would have been able to read it." 00:11:55.26 Well, just leaving some space at the different edges, the boundaries of the slide 00:12:00.08 and don't forget about leaving some space at the bottom. 00:12:03.14 If you're in a room where everyone is sitting at the same level, 00:12:07.27 people in the back are trying to see over one another's head, 00:12:11.07 so if you're stuff is too close to bottom, some people in the back can't see it. 00:12:14.26 So, leave space on all three sides and a little space at the top, again for the misalignment problem. 00:12:19.25 Ok, let's think about the style of these slides. I urge you 00:12:25.17 most wholeheartedly to include a simple image 00:12:31.17 on every slide. 00:12:33.01 What, most slides? No, every slide. 00:12:35.28 In every slide of one of my scientific presentations, there is an image. 00:12:40.02 Why is that? Here's the deal. 00:12:43.03 We audience members who are listening to a talk take in and process information 00:12:48.28 in quite different ways from one another. Some of us 00:12:52.22 are readers and that's the reason for having a sentence at the top of each slide. 00:12:57.03 Some of us are going to take in information by reading. 00:13:00.11 Others of us are very visual. If we have an image on the slide, 00:13:04.11 then that appeals to the vision, we're primates, we're very visually oriented 00:13:08.17 so we communicate through pictures. 00:13:10.28 And the third way we talk in information is by listening. 00:13:13.23 The ideal, the perfect power point slide represents an absolutely 00:13:20.22 synchronous match between a simple statement at the top, 00:13:25.13 a simple visual and what you as a speaker are saying. 00:13:30.00 So that the same content is being delivered through all three channels 00:13:34.25 at the same time, without any distractions. 00:13:38.15 Make your slides simple, limit the number of stuff you included in each slide 00:13:44.09 and just make one or two points from each slide. 00:13:47.00 Now, we've all heard this rule, maybe most of us have heard a rule, 00:13:51.11 how many slides should you show in a particular scientific presentation? 00:13:55.15 And the rule that I learned and the rule that perhaps you learned as well, 00:13:58.27 the rule is you show one slide per minute. 00:14:02.10 So, if you're giving a twenty minute talk, 00:14:03.28 you show twenty slides. I would argue now 00:14:08.00 that that might have been true when slides were actually on film 00:14:12.07 and difficult to manipulate and there was no such thing as animations. 00:14:15.19 Now that we have tools like PowerPoint and Keynote, 00:14:19.08 that enable us to build content progressively in slides and to have things that are simple, 00:14:24.27 simple points, that we can easily change from talk to talk, 00:14:29.10 that rule doesn't really hold anymore. 00:14:31.10 And I don't think there is a firm rule, I think it really depends on the amount of information 00:14:35.14 that you're delivering in a talk. 00:14:37.13 So, make your slides simple, 00:14:39.22 don't worry about this one slide per minute rule and rather, get feedback from, as you practice a talk, 00:14:48.04 get feedback from your colleagues 00:14:49.25 about whether you're overwhelming people 00:14:51.22 with too much data and number of slides. 00:14:54.03 If your slides are simple, you can show more than one per minute. 00:14:57.09 We have all seen talks where a slide like this comes up 00:15:01.12 and what does the speaker do? The speaker does this, 00:15:04.01 the speaker says, "I know this slide is really busy, but, the only thing I really want you to look at 00:15:08.23 is this set of data right here". 00:15:11.15 We've been there, right? I've been there, you've been there. 00:15:14.24 What has the speaker just told you? 00:15:16.27 The speaker's just said, I'm too lazy to have created a slide 00:15:20.01 that is actually tailored for what I want to show you. 00:15:22.20 And we as audience members are looking at all of this stuff, 00:15:26.19 we, even if we're told to look at this, I mean, how many of us behave? 00:15:29.29 I, personally, I'm looking this and I'm wondering about that, 00:15:33.22 so the speaker has not only shown a little bit of disrespect, 00:15:37.07 and laziness to us, in my opinion, 00:15:39.27 but in addition, the speaker has lost us as audience members 00:15:43.20 because we're now wandering around the slide 00:15:46.03 and wondering, we're having our own thoughts. 00:15:48.29 So, if you're going to show a slide like this, simply take the data that 00:15:53.16 you want to show, eliminate everything else and put that up. 00:15:57.11 And then explain the data completely. 00:16:01.20 Explain to the audience what the axes are, what each color is, and remember 00:16:06.07 that this is the very first time that anyone in the audience has seen this particular graph. 00:16:12.06 You've seen it a thousand times, you get it intuitively, like that, 00:16:15.18 but they won't. So, just show the data that you want to explain 00:16:19.26 and explain the data that you show. 00:16:21.26 In other words, here's the simple rule: 00:16:24.20 if you're not going to take the time to explain it, get rid of it completely. 00:16:28.07 It doesn't belong there. 00:16:29.17 I want to show you an example of a figure that I used to show in one of my scientific presentations. 00:16:35.14 And it's a brain and it's got some protein and it shows the distribution of those proteins in the brain. 00:16:41.15 It's a pretty simple figure, the content doesn't matter to us. 00:16:45.21 But I want to show you what this figure looked like before I put it into the talk in this format. 00:16:51.12 Here's what the figure looked like in the actual paper that I took it from. 00:16:56.15 It had all of these extra labels that were extraneous, 00:16:59.16 I was never going to explain 00:17:01.07 that MGE stands for the medial ganglionic eminence because it's not relevant to the talk 00:17:06.13 so, what did I do? I took this figure, 00:17:08.22 I put it into Photoshop and I got rid of all of that, 00:17:12.01 leaving only a little landmark, the eye, to orient the audience to what we were saying. 00:17:17.20 So, you can take complex figures, export them, and simply them 00:17:22.29 in order to fit perfectly with your presentation. 00:17:26.14 We have all seen a lot of, especially with the introduction of Keynote, 00:17:33.27 some very fancy transitions between slides. 00:17:37.12 What do me mean by transition? Well, 00:17:39.05 in my talk so far, when I've advanced the slides, you simply see the new slide. 00:17:43.14 Remember when Keynote came out and the first time you were at a talk 00:17:48.06 and the speaker advanced to the next slide 00:17:50.06 and the slide formed a box, and the box rotated in 3 dimensions and then a new slide appeared 00:17:57.25 and you thought "Oh, that's really cool, that was wild!" 00:18:00.11 and then the speaker got their advance and they advanced to the second slide and 00:18:04.28 the slide then did a big spiral and then the new slide appeared 00:18:09.24 and by the third or fourth time that the speaker did that, you felt nauseated. 00:18:13.19 We, yeah, so avoid these fancy transitions, they are not in service of the talk. 00:18:18.18 There is an exception though. 00:18:21.03 There are some transitions that actually illustrate 00:18:22.09 in a very subtle way, actions. Here’s an example. 00:18:25.22 This is a slide that I've shown in some of my presentations 00:18:30.11 that have talked about the migration of neurons in the developing brain. 00:18:35.02 And in this particular talk, the point I wanted to make was that we would take out neurons 00:18:40.14 from a very small region and culture them. So, I used a very simple wipe transition. Watch this,s 00:18:45.04 it's subtle but, there's the transition. 00:18:49.04 It actually wipes from one side to the other. That sort of mimics the act 00:18:52.11 of taking something out of the brain and putting it into culture. 00:18:55.13 So, that's a sensible use, another sensible use would be if you're going to zoom in on something, 00:19:00.22 if you're going to zoom in on this region, you might use a zoom transition. 00:19:04.09 Apart from that, just advance from one slide to the next with a simple transition. 00:19:09.06 Don't drown the audience with data. 00:19:15.02 What makes a talk memorable is when a speaker communicates 00:19:20.26 a couple of take-home messages in a way that presents just enough data 00:19:27.02 to be convincing, but not so much data that the audience is just flooded with information 00:19:33.27 and can't process it. 00:19:36.02 Less is more and here's a way to think about it. Those of us who are biologists 00:19:41.00 are used to culturing cells in minimum essential medium. 00:19:44.17 Just enough of the critical nutrients and elements and vitamins, 00:19:55.07 that a cell needs to survive and nothing extra. Minimum essential medium. 00:20:00.05 Now, if you take out any one of those elements in the medium, 00:20:05.07 the cells will die. Adding more doesn't add any value to your culture. 00:20:11.18 So, if we think about minimum essential media, we can also think about 00:20:17.15 minimum essential data. Just the data that you need 00:20:21.09 to convince the audience of the credibility of your science and no more. 00:20:25.29 That's really difficult and, I think, that's the most difficult decision that we have to make 00:20:32.00 in terms of presenting a seminar. What is just enough? 00:20:36.26 And where's the line between just enough and not too much. 00:20:39.22 For that, experience helps a lot, but also getting feedback from your colleagues, 00:20:43.12 when you're practicing your talk, 00:20:44.22 to ask people, can I get rid of this? What can go? 00:20:48.19 Don't ask what can I add, ask what can go? To make this convincing and thorough, 00:20:54.02 and yet not too much. 00:20:56.04 So, I think we all realize it's really easy to use PowerPoint badly, 00:21:00.01 right? So, we've seen a zillion examples like this, of people presenting journal clubs or seminars 00:21:06.03 you see a slide like that, we as audience members, 00:21:09.28 are visually overwhelmed, we're lost, we don't know what to look at 00:21:12.21 we can't read this stuff, it's too much to read, we're distracted. 00:21:16.11 The minute a slide like this goes up, the speaker has lost the audience completely. 00:21:20.24 So, it takes a lot of work, don't get me wrong, it takes time 00:21:24.22 to use PowerPoint or Keynote effectively in a seminar because you have to think carefully 00:21:30.03 about what you need to present, what you NEED to present, 00:21:33.12 not what you want to present, 00:21:33.27 not what you'd love to present, but what you need to present 00:21:37.16 and to present it using clear, simple graphics 00:21:41.08 and clear, simple text. So, in fact, let's go through an exercise. 00:21:47.03 Let's take that previous slide, from this lovely paper from JCB, 00:21:51.04 which I actually presented for a journal club many years ago. 00:21:54.15 Let's take that previous slide, which is figure 2 from that paper, 00:21:57.10 and let's see how we can break it down into its minimum essential components. 00:22:02.10 The first decision that we have to make in terms of looking at all the data in this figure 00:22:06.10 is what stays and what goes. What's the minimum essential data? 00:22:10.07 What are, excuse my grammatical error there, what are the minimum essential data? 00:22:14.11 that we need in order to present in our journal club. 00:22:17.24 And we might decide at that point that this particular part of the figure, panel b, can go. 00:22:21.23 It's not essential, but everything else is. 00:22:24.01 So, how do we present that? Well, let's deploy our PowerPoint rules 00:22:28.00 in this context. First of all, I'm going show you how I'd present panel a. Look at it for a second, 00:22:33.25 it's got some results in a gel and it's got some images of cells. 00:22:37.15 How might I do that? Well, 00:22:39.15 here's the first figure, here's the first slide in presenting this figure. 00:22:44.09 Notice that there's a sentence at the top, and then I've taken the data 00:22:49.09 from the figure and I've added some stuff over here. 00:22:52.08 I've added two labels that help the audience 00:22:54.14 understand immediately that this is a PCR product and this is actually a Western blot. 00:22:59.15 So I've added some stuff to be helpful to the audience, but I've simplified 00:23:02.07 their focus, so there's a good match between showing this and having the text. 00:23:07.21 And what I would be saying if I were actually presenting a journal club. 00:23:11.00 And then, using a simple animation, 00:23:13.22 I would then unveil the rest of this panel. 00:23:17.10 And I've added something for this audience down here, 00:23:19.06 showing you that this is actually a photomicrograph of MDCK cells. 00:23:25.01 So that's panel a, presented in really two parts, 00:23:28.11 using a simple animation and some additions. 00:23:29.27 The next thing I might want to show actually comes from panel c, 00:23:34.29 of that figure. And I've added a bunch of stuff here to be audience friendly. 00:23:39.25 First of all, notice that there's a sentence at the top, a statement of what's going on. 00:23:44.04 I'm showing just one simple panel, I've added a label, 00:23:48.15 and I've added this statement to help the audience that 00:23:50.21 we're looking down at the surface of these cells. 00:23:52.28 from the lumen. 00:23:54.28 I've also added some color coding so that they know what proteins are visualized 00:24:00.19 in different colors. That wasn't in the original figure, I added that 00:24:04.22 because who is this slide for? It's for the audience. 00:24:06.04 The audience needs this. And then using an animation, we'll then show a side view 00:24:11.01 of the same cells, that' s the control cells. Now watch what happens. 00:24:14.17 Two things happen; the sentence at the top changes, 00:24:17.18 cause there's a new message, and we've added the contrasting view 00:24:21.24 of the cells that have this particular protein knocked down. 00:24:25.26 Let's now think about the last part, a new sentence that really states that 00:24:30.29 this protein is essential for these cells to form little microvilli 00:24:34.13 and in the absence of protein, they don't. 00:24:37.15 So, now we've presented that complicated figure in a few parts using some simple animations 00:24:44.06 in a very audience-friendly format. 00:24:46.07 So, what's the bottom line with PowerPoint? 00:24:48.18 Make simple slides, simple slides, that make one or two points. 00:24:52.06 Build your content progressively using animations, rather than present everything all at once. 00:24:58.02 Just show one, PowerPoint and Keynote, they're all about control. 00:25:02.29 They're controlling what people see, what you're saying, and what they're reading 00:25:08.19 and have all those match at the same time. 00:25:10.19 And remember, if you're not going to talk about it, just leave it out. 00:25:15.06 If you're not going to explain it, it doesn't belong there at all. 00:25:18.07 It goes. Ok, that's what I wanted to tell you about PowerPoint, I hope that's helpful. 00:25:24.12 And now we want to transition into thinking more broadly 00:25:27.24 about how to structure a talk. 00:25:31.14 So that its organization is clear to the audience. 00:25:35.14 And I think about it as almost taking someone by the hand 00:25:37.24 and walking them through the science, right, 00:25:39.19 and saying, here's what I want you to see now 00:25:42.29 and here's the path that we’re following, here's where we've just been 00:25:44.13 and here's where we're going. 00:25:46.02 So, a good talk is like a good paper, it has a structure, 00:25:49.14 right, a good talk starts out with a big question 00:25:53.28 and then we build content over time, we go through the meat of the talk 00:25:57.11 and then we end with a conclusion that basically reaches back out to the big issues that we started with. 00:26:02.24 Same way as we write a paper, why are so bad at actually doing this at talks? 00:26:06.21 Well, if we discipline ourselves to do it, I think we can do it better. 00:26:10.02 I'd like to show you an example from one of my own seminars 00:26:12.22 of how I actually structure an introduction to define the really big question 00:26:18.02 and then give enough background information 00:26:20.20 to enable the audience to be able to follow the meat of the talk 00:26:25.18 in the middle. 00:26:26.10 And as I'm doing that, I also want to show you a trick that I've learned 00:26:31.18 that I think is extraordinarily effective at giving good talks. 00:26:36.29 And that's an idea that I call something like a home slide 00:26:41.15 or a home image. It's a picture, 00:26:44.23 maybe a cartoon, an image of some sort, that is going to signal to the audience 00:26:50.18 that you're at a point in the talk where you're going to make a transition. 00:26:53.17 It's a little signal to the audience to perk up 00:26:55.14 because you're going to tell them where you've just been, 00:26:59.00 what it means and where you're going next. 00:27:00.21 So, as I show you the introduction to one of my talks, 00:27:04.01 I'm going to build up into a home slide that you'll see a little bit later, 00:27:09.03 is going to come up again and again and again 00:27:10.23 at transitions. You might feel a little bit jarred 00:27:13.23 because now the background of the slide is going to change from white to black 00:27:16.21 and this jarred feeling that you might experience 00:27:19.12 is one of the reasons that I think it's actually quite important in a talk 00:27:21.12 to keep the same color background throughout the entire thing. 00:27:25.06 So, here we go. So, here's the first slide from my standard seminar and notice first of all 00:27:30.02 that my name and institution appear right here. 00:27:32.20 Why is that? Well, because people in the audience may be taking notes 00:27:36.12 and they might want to write down your name 00:27:37.04 and they'll want to know how to spell it correctly, 00:27:39.11 so it's a courtesy to them. 00:27:41.00 So, as I start in my talk, I start to discuss 00:27:45.02 a kind of analogy between the brain, which is what we study 00:27:48.13 and a computer chip, because each of them has to make really specific connections with one another, 00:27:55.03 the brain during development and the computer chip in a factory. 00:27:57.21 And I make kind of a joke and see if people laugh and 00:27:59.13 gauge the humor level of my audience at that point. 00:28:03.22 And then I show the audience the cells that I actually work on, the actual circuitry of the brain 00:28:11.08 that my lab studies, in the cerebral cortex 00:28:14.01 and then I frame the major question that my lab is interested in, 00:28:17.03 which really has to do with the question of how it is that these individual neurons in the brain know 00:28:22.22 what kind of connections to form, what are the molecular mechanisms 00:28:26.04 that guide those choices about cell fate and connectivity. 00:28:29.00 At this point then, I introduce the two cell types that the talk will focus on, 00:28:35.07 two sets of neurons that you'll see have different colors 00:28:38.17 and then I introduce two questions that the talk will address 00:28:42.29 during the course of the next however long it is, maybe a forty-five minute seminar. 00:28:47.20 One question having to do with the fate of the yellow cells 00:28:50.20 and another question having to do with the fate of the blue cells. 00:28:55.11 And that, basically then, launches me into the actual data part of the talk. 00:29:02.03 This particular image right here is the "home image" 00:29:07.23 or the home slide that I was referring to 00:29:09.19 just a minute ago. 00:29:11.23 And as you'll see, this image is going to reappear again and again and again 00:29:16.06 in my talk during transitions. And we'll see just in a couple of minutes how that can get played out 00:29:21.08 and how it can be extraordinarily effective in enabling the audience to follow a talk. 00:29:27.04 Ok, so, now we've built up an introduction and we're ready for the middle, right? 00:29:30.26 So, we're ready for the middle of the talk, which is the meat. 00:29:34.20 But, there's a problem. And that is that 00:29:38.21 audiences have fairly limited attention spans. 00:29:42.26 This is an interesting graph, so let's look at a little bit of data. 00:29:46.25 This is a plot of the percentage of a class that's paying full attention to a lecturer 00:29:52.00 over the time during which the lecture is being delivered. 00:29:56.01 Ok, there's some good news, right? 00:29:57.29 The good news is right here, in your introduction, people are actually kinda tuned in and listening. 00:30:02.07 And here's the bad news, which is that ok, let's face it, 00:30:06.17 depending on how compelling the lecturer is, 00:30:10.06 it might be here, or it might be way down there, 00:30:14.11 but the bottom line is that at no, under no circumstance are you ever going to get 00:30:20.01 100% audience attention for your entire talk. 00:30:24.17 Why is that? Well, think about being a member of the audience. 00:30:28.09 Why does this happen? It's because we're human! We have thoughts, 00:30:33.06 we have thoughts that intrude on our attention span, 00:30:37.07 we have thoughts about, oh my gosh, did I remember to load that gel or turn off the power supply, 00:30:43.23 we have thoughts about whether we actually are going to be on time getting the kids from daycare, 00:30:50.10 we have thoughts about someone we just met, 00:30:52.21 you know, we have all these random thoughts that intrude, 00:30:54.29 so we're human and we're going to space out. 00:30:58.20 We then, as speakers have two choices, 00:31:00.02 one is we could say, eh, ok, someone spaced out, take no prisoners, you spaced out, forget it. 00:31:06.02 You're just never going to understand anything else I say. 00:31:09.11 Or, we can just acknowledge the fact that the audience is human, 00:31:13.02 that every single member of an audience is going to tune out at some point. 00:31:19.23 And we can build in a mechanism within our talk to enable them to catch up. 00:31:24.25 So, obviously, I kind of recommend the latter. 00:31:27.18 So, if the middle is the meat of the talk and it's the time when the audience is going to zone out at some point, 00:31:33.18 why? Because they're just people! Well, what are we going to do about it? 00:31:38.13 What I suggest you do is to visualize the middle of the talk in the following way. 00:31:45.02 You're going to have a series of episodes, or data dives, 00:31:51.02 that you're going to present 00:31:52.22 little stories, and as you're presenting a particular story, you're going to start at a level 00:31:59.07 that's fairly untechnical and you might actually get pretty deep into the data. 00:32:02.21 To a level that's really going to appeal really just to specialists in your fields. 00:32:07.07 Now, if we were to give a talk and start presenting our data, and we've all been at seminars where people do this, 00:32:12.11 where we just go down into depth and then we just do data, data, data, data, data, data, data, data 00:32:18.28 and then we conclude and it's over, we've lost people along the way. 00:32:23.12 So, this structure, this visual structure here, is a way of planning your talk 00:32:30.09 so that you can think about diving down into data and then coming up for air 00:32:36.24 and it's at these transition points between data dives 00:32:40.00 that you use your home image to basically let the audience members 00:32:44.10 catch up and know where you've just been, 00:32:48.10 what you're concluding from that part of the data, 00:32:50.24 and where you're going to go next. 00:32:51.28 So, let's look at an example of one of those data dives from one of my seminars. 00:32:57.23 You've already seen the introduction to the seminar, you've already seen how I introduced 00:33:03.10 my home slide. At this point in my talk, I've gone through a review of the literature, 00:33:08.26 the first data dive and I'm now beginning part two of the talk. 00:33:11.23 And here's the beginning of that section. So, once again, you see 00:33:15.14 this home image and you see the two questions. 00:33:17.09 We're half way through the talk, but I'm summarizing part one 00:33:20.17 and getting ready to introduce the second set of questions. 00:33:24.09 At this point, then, I now start to explain that as we focus on the blue cells, 00:33:33.00 that we're going to be looking at the role of a separate protein 00:33:36.26 that is actually expressed in a subset of neurons within the different layers. 00:33:42.18 And then I explain that we've generated knock-out mice in which we've inserted 00:33:45.19 a reporter into the cells that normally express this protein 00:33:49.26 so that we can see their axonal connections. 00:33:51.06 And now, we don't really need to focus on the data, but look, there's a sentence, 00:33:56.24 at the top that basically says what I just told you, 00:34:00.01 then we see a simple figure from the controls 00:34:01.15 in which I would point out that what I want the audience to look at 00:34:05.25 are the blue axons that label the connections between the two hemispheres. 00:34:09.01 That's in the control, then we look at the mutant, the thing I'm going to emphasize 00:34:13.17 is the absence of those connections here. 00:34:15.25 Now, we're going to look at it from the side, same stuff, sentence, two simple images, 00:34:20.28 words will match the content, were I really delivering the seminar to you. 00:34:25.08 And then, I tell you what I told just told you. 00:34:28.21 I just told you that the blue cells express this protein, that they form this type of connection 00:34:34.05 and then I say, you know, in the first part of the talk, 00:34:37.06 I told you about another pathway. 00:34:39.18 So, you might be wondering, what is the relationship between these two pathways? 00:34:43.03 So, then I will go on to actually test that connection, by presenting more data 00:34:50.17 that would then build up into a small conclusion slide 00:34:53.26 showing you that this protein represses the expression of this gene. 00:34:58.27 So, simple graphics that really emphasize the bottom line, 00:35:04.28 the story that I'm telling you, with the minimum essential data. 00:35:07.15 Ok, so we've gone through the meat, thinking about data dives, coming back, making transitions. 00:35:13.00 Now let's think about how to conclude a talk. 00:35:15.22 Here's the good news, is that as you say 00:35:18.29 and now, in conclusion, look what happens to the attention level of your audience. 00:35:23.23 It's like, oh, it's over, hey, I better see what I just saw. 00:35:28.02 So, that's good news, now you've got one more really good chance to deliver your take-home to the audience effectively. 00:35:34.05 There's a danger to this though, as well, and that's the danger of hearing 00:35:40.21 for example, forty minutes into a talk someone say, "Oh, to conclude", 00:35:46.08 and our, we're like, "oh, good, you know, actually, they're ending twenty minutes early, that's great, 00:35:49.19 I can actually get a little bit more work done today." 00:35:51.14 So, they say in conclusion, blah blah blah, blah blah blah, and then, they say 00:35:56.09 "and now in part two of my talk" and what's our response as an audience? 00:36:00.15 We're like, "oooh, dude, no". Why is that? It's because it was a false ending. 00:36:05.13 And it got us all excited. So, if you're going to conclude part one of your talk, 00:36:08.19 do the audience of favor of saying, 00:36:11.29 to some sum up this first part of the seminar, and that way you won't create a false expectation. 00:36:16.20 But, the good news is, you will perk up interest as you signal your conclusion, 00:36:21.13 and that means that you have one last chance to really reiterate your specific conclusions 00:36:28.29 and most of us remember to do that. 00:36:30.00 But it's easy to forget to sort of back out to the big picture. 00:36:34.07 And return to the beginning, to have your talk come full circle, 00:36:37.26 so that you're really ending by revisiting the big questions 00:36:43.08 that you introduced at the very first part of the talk. 00:36:47.04 So, again, here's how I would do it in my talk, just as a visual 00:36:50.16 example of how one might think about this. 00:36:53.10 Concluding up, now, sentence at the top, the same diagram that you've seen before, 00:36:57.27 about this repression and now adding other things you haven't seen in the data, 00:37:01.29 but I would add that, just to remind them, 00:37:04.12 that at least one of these mechanisms works through the modulation of chromatin, 00:37:08.15 they would have seen that slide already. 00:37:10.29 I would then connect it back to the first part of the talk 00:37:13.12 and talk about a little switch that had gotten set up. 00:37:16.06 I would then refer back even earlier to a part of the talk that you didn't see, 00:37:20.26 now going back to the really big picture, 00:37:23.08 questions about how different types of neurons emerge over time. 00:37:26.29 Many of these questions are still unanswered and therefore represent a frontier in my field. 00:37:33.18 I would then wrap up by acknowledging, of course, the colleagues that have contributed to the work over time 00:37:38.19 and then, here's a trick, 00:37:40.27 as you get to the very end of your talk, 00:37:43.15 rather than leaving up your acknowledgements slide, 00:37:46.15 have your conclusion slide appear at the very end. 00:37:50.01 For the question and answer period. 00:37:51.21 Why is that? Well, it helps the audience. 00:37:54.19 Remember everything is in service of the audience and I actually have the misfortune 00:37:58.10 of working on three genes, all of which have names that end in two and none of which are memorable 00:38:03.07 by anyone who doesn't work on them. 00:38:05.09 So, by putting this picture up, I'm enabling the audience to actually ask intelligent questions. 00:38:12.02 First, you know, if they're struggling to remember which gene they had a question about 00:38:15.22 and secondly, when I'm answering a question, 00:38:18.15 I can actually use the visuals to explain my answer. 00:38:21.24 And that turns out to be very helpful. 00:38:23.09 So, I really recommend that at the end of your talk, 00:38:26.18 during Q and A, put your summary slide back up again. 00:38:29.08 It's helpful for you and for the people attending your talk. 00:38:32.18 Ok, so what have I just told you about organizing a great talk? 00:38:37.04 First of all, use PowerPoint wisely. 00:38:40.09 Have very clean, minimal slides. 00:38:43.29 Secondly, start out with a broad introduction, so that everyone in the audience 00:38:49.06 understands the big questions that are compelling in your field 00:38:53.08 and then introduce the specifics gradually, 00:38:55.16 giving them just enough background information so that they can follow the data, 00:38:59.29 but not so much that they're overwhelmed. 00:39:01.22 Third, think of the talk as consisting of these episodes, 00:39:06.01 or little data dives, in which you're going to go 00:39:09.26 at a point into your data, remember the minimum essential data, 00:39:13.17 and then you're going to go into some depth, but then you come up for air 00:39:17.20 and allow the audience to regroup, see where you've just been, 00:39:21.01 frame the next question, and then get there logically, rather than just going through data, data, data, data, 00:39:27.20 which was just going to leave people in the dust. 00:39:29.14 A very effective way of making these transitions explicit 00:39:36.24 is to design a home slide or a home image 00:39:39.26 that is a signal to the audience that you're at a point of transition 00:39:45.00 and they will perk up and it will help them to understand the flow of your talk. 00:39:48.06 And finally, your conclusion here is just the opposite of the introduction. 00:39:53.10 You start more specific with what you've learned, but then end up broad again. 00:39:57.15 So, is this all you need to know to give a great talk? 00:40:00.07 No way! Right? I mean, these are just some basic rules or suggestions or advice 00:40:07.04 about how to create slides that are user-friendly, audience-friendly, 00:40:11.23 and how to structure your talk so that it's well organized and very, very clear, 00:40:16.15 and simple for an audience to follow. 00:40:19.02 But there are a lot of things that go into giving a great talk. 00:40:22.01 There's the whole performance aspect of speaking. 00:40:25.17 There's the actual scientific content, 00:40:28.24 but at least in terms of performance, you can practice that, 00:40:33.18 you can and should rehearse your talks. 00:40:36.17 In fact, the entire time, from the first day of graduate school, all the way, well into being a tenured professor, 00:40:45.13 at Stanford, I rehearsed every talk, every lecture, 00:40:51.03 every journal club, that I gave. 00:40:52.17 Every one of them. And finally, I got so comfortable with speaking 00:40:55.07 I don't actually have to do it anymore. 00:40:58.00 But that means rehearsing, out loud and often in front of an audience, 00:41:02.09 dozens and dozens and dozens of talks, 00:41:04.20 get feedback and practice the way you're going to speak. 00:41:08.23 Have the words rehearsed and get some input from your colleagues 00:41:13.15 about whether you've identified effectively 00:41:16.08 the minimum essential data for the talk. 00:41:18.18 Secondly, have yourself videotaped. 00:41:20.19 Go and watch yourself and see what you do. 00:41:22.24 See if you're gesturing naturally and so on. 00:41:24.21 So, those kinds of aspects of delivery are much more effectively done one on one, 00:41:29.23 rather than through a format like this. 00:41:32.14 Another great resource that I highly recommend is a wonderful book, by Michael Alley, 00:41:37.25 called The Craft of Scientific Presentations. 00:41:39.12 If you're going to have just a single book on scientific presentations in your bookshelf, I personally would recommend this one. 00:41:46.02 It's a terrific model and it's actually the basis of a lot the information that I've presented to you today. 00:41:51.08 Well, that's it! Thank you so much, I hope this has been helpful 00:41:54.05 and I wish you every success with your talks in the future.

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Talk Overview

What is the best way to give scientific presentations that engage and inform your audience? Dr. McConnell gives helpful advice on preparing and presenting an effective scientific talk. She reviews the basics of PowerPoint or Key Note and gives advice on choosing fonts, colors and slide styles. She also recommends ways to structure your talk so the audience stays awake and engaged. Her final recommendation is practice, practice, practice! Whether you are a graduate student presenting journal club or a tenured professor giving an invited lecture, this talk is sure to prove useful.

Speaker Bio

Susan mcconnell.

Susan McConnell

Susan McConnell received her Ph.D. in Neurobiology from Harvard University and did a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Neurobiology at Stanford School of Medicine. She joined the faculty of the Department of Biology at Stanford in 1989. McConnell is a University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, an appointment that recognizes faculty who have made an… Continue Reading

More Talks in Professional Development

Rob Phillips (Cal Tech): A Vision for Quantitative Biology

Related Resources

M. Alley. (2003) The Craft of Scientific Presentations. Springer.

P. Kenny (1982) A Handbook of Public Speaking for Scientists and Engineers. Institute of Physics Publishing.

Reader Interactions

Monzur Hossain says

March 15, 2019 at 10:30 am

Just wonderful and motivating

May 10, 2023 at 5:00 am

Thanks a lot.

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Giving a presentation

Source: © Shutterstock

How to give a scientific presentation

By Manisha Lalloo 2017-09-20T13:27:00+01:00

Five tips to keep an audience engaged without using cat pictures

Whether lecturing, presenting results at a conference or applying for a research proposal, giving presentations are a way of life for any chemist. But what are the best ways to get your point across while keeping your audience interested?

Giving a presentation

Think about your audience and remember that they want you to succeed

Jacquie Robson, is an associate professor of teaching at Durham University, UK, while Paul Bader is creative director at Screenhouse, an organisation which regularly trains scientists on how to develop better presentation skills. Here are their top tips.

Think about your audience

Whether presenting to colleagues or the general public, remember not everyone in your audience will be specialists. A common mistake scientists make is to assume others know as much as them when – more often than not – they are the expert in the room.

Even if your audience is well versed in the topic – for example, if you are presenting to a funding committee – do not start off with complex details. ‘If one person on the panel is outside the field, then you’ve lost them at the beginning,’ says Bader. Remember to give the big picture: it’s a good way in and a great way to make an impact.

Tell a story

‘Stories are easy to listen to and easy to tell,’ says Bader, who believes one of the most common mistakes is to cram too much information into just one talk. Structuring your talk in this way will help you to be selective.

Robson and Bader advise against learning a script by rote or reading a sheet of prose aloud. Written text is often more formal than convoluted than speech and sounds unnatural. Instead, have a set of key points on cue cards or use your slides as aide-mémoires. With a strong narrative, one point will lead to the next, making your talk more logical to follow and simpler to remember.

Robson also suggests telling your audience what you are going to speak about at the beginning of your talk and finishing off with a summary. That way your audience hears your main points three times – at the beginning, middle and end.

Visual aids are key

While PowerPoint is almost a given in today’s scientific presentations, try not to rely on it too much. ‘Slides should be clear, uncluttered and readable,’ says Robson. ‘Use diagrams rather than text.’

Slides should be used to highlight key points, not replicate your talk in written form. And remember never to turn your back on the audience – otherwise will be giving your presentation to the screen instead.

Don’t forget body language

‘Think about how you present yourself,’ says Robson. Have an open stance, smile, maintain eye contact, speak to the back of the room and at a good volume. ‘If you act confidently, they won’t know you’re feeling nervous.’

One of Robson’s pet peeves is a speaker who distracts the audience, for example by chewing gum or overusing laser pointers. Try to identify any habits you have while speaking that might take your audience’s attention away from your talk.

If you are feeling anxious, Robson advises against holding pieces of paper, which might shake in your hands. Bader suggests taking a moment to breathe. And both say the best technique is to ignore your nerves. The audience doesn’t want you to fail, and often won’t notice slip-ups. If you do make a big mistake, just correct yourself and carry on.

Practice, practice, practice

Perhaps the most important tip is to go through your presentation out loud before delivering it on the day.

‘People spend a lot of time writing their presentation or working on their slides but often the first time in public is the first time [they] do it,’ says Bader. By practising in advance and timing your run-throughs, you can discover if your talk is too long or too complicated.

There are many ways to practice, and it’s important to find the technique that works for you: you could video yourself on a phone and play it back, speak to yourself in front of a mirror or get somebody to listen to a rehearsal. According to Bader, the best way is to deliver your talk to a colleague or friend as you can see which parts they are engaged with (or not). ‘[But] any of the above is better than doing nothing,’ he adds.

And what about the dreaded questions at the end? ‘You can’t prepare for questions, so don’t fret,’ says Robson. ‘It’s not a spot exam, it’s a discussion. Make it into a conversation and don’t be afraid of saying “I don’t know the answer”.’

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How to Present a Science Project

Last Updated: August 17, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Meredith Juncker, PhD . Meredith Juncker is a PhD candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. Her studies are focused on proteins and neurodegenerative diseases. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 53,524 times.

After creating a science project , you’ll likely have to present your work to your class or at a science fair. Try to give yourself a few weeks to plan and put together your presentation. Outline your main points, make note cards, and practice ahead of time. Make a clear, neat display board or PowerPoint presentation. When it comes time to present, relax, speak clearly and loudly, and avoid reading your presentation word for word.

Putting Together Your Presentation

Step 1 Start planning your presentation early.

  • Finish up your experiment, research, and other aspects of your project.
  • Get the materials you’ll need for your display board.
  • Start to imagine how you’ll organize your information.

Step 2 Make an outline.

  • An introduction to your topic or the problem you’ve addressed.
  • How the problem impacts the real world (such as how a better understanding of the issue can impact humans).
  • Your hypothesis, or what you expected to learn about through your experiment.
  • The research you did to learn more about your topic.
  • The Materials that you used in your project.
  • Each step of your experiment’s procedure.
  • The results of your experiment.
  • Your conclusion, including what you learned and whether your data supports your hypothesis.

Step 3 Consider writing out your presentation.

  • When writing your speech, try to keep it simple, and avoid using phrases that are more complicated than necessary. Try to tailor the presentation to your audience: will you be presenting to your class, judges, a higher grade than yours, or to an honors class?
  • Writing out your presentation can also help you manage your time. For example, if you’re supposed to talk for less than five minutes, shoot for less than two pages.

Step 4 Create notecards.

  • For example, if you've made a volcano, make sure you know the exact mix of chemicals that will create the eruption.

Step 6 Practice making your presentation.

Creating Your Display Board

Step 1 Purchase your display board.

  • When you purchase your board, you should also acquire other materials, like a glue stick, construction paper, a pencil, markers, and a ruler.

Step 2 Organize your board clearly.

  • Consider using the top left corner for your topic introduction, the section under that for your hypothesis, and the bottom left section to discuss your research.
  • Use the top right corner to outline your experiment’s procedure. List your results underneath, and finally, put the section with your conclusion under the results.

Step 3 Use large, easy to read fonts in dark colors.

  • Be sure to use a dark font color that’s easy to see from a distance.
  • You can also write everything out by hand. Draft your lettering in pencil before using a pen or marker, and use a ruler to make sure everything is straight.

Step 4 Mount headings, text, and graphs with construction paper.

  • Before gluing anything, make sure you plan out each section’s position and are sure everything will fit without looking cluttered. Use rulers to make sure everything is positioned evenly.

Step 5 Create a clear PowerPoint presentation if necessary.

  • Consider including 1 slide for each section, like 1 for the title of your project, 1 for your hypothesis, and 1 that outlines each main point of your research. If a slide becomes too dense, break it down by concept.
  • Limit the text to 1 line and include a visual aid, like an image or a graph, that demonstrates the concept or explains the data. [6] X Research source

Giving a Great Presentation

Step 1 Dress to impress.

  • Take the time to iron your clothes and tuck your shirt in to avoid looking sloppy.

Step 2 Relax...

  • It’s a good idea to use the restroom before you have to present your project.

Step 3 Speak clearly and loudly.

  • It can be really hard to resist, but try to avoid saying “um” or “uh” during your presentation.
  • Speaking when you have a dry mouth can be difficult, so it’s a good idea to keep a water bottle handy.

Step 4 Engage your audience.

  • Remember it’s better to be honest if you don't know how to answer a question instead of making something up. Ask the person who asked the question to repeat or rephrase it, or say something like, "That's certainly an area I can explore in more detail in the future."

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Make your scientific presentation slide design healthy with 5 simple cures

how to make a good science presentation

Dr. PPT’s diagnosis is with the slides. Because let’s get one thing clear first; the fact that we dislike so many presentations is not because presentations or slides themselves are bad. What’s often wrong is the  execution  of the presentation.

People are very visual, so a combination of a story with images works very well to convey information. A movie works best, but a presentation is the next best thing. As a consequence, there is nothing inherently wrong with PowerPoint or Prezi – besides perhaps the potential of the latter to give you motion sickness, and as a Dr we can’t condone that…

There is no need to run with the latest gimmick when we can just improve our use of slides. This is easier said than done of course, because even though we all have been working with presentations for decades, this doesn’t make everyone good at using it. Maybe even the other way around (hello lecturer who recently moved on from overhead projectors!).

Use your slides as the illustrated background to the story you tell.

We have been working with professors that wanted to get their message very clear. They asked Dr. PPT to help them cure their slides. In this blog we want to share some of those healthy tips with you. This is very hands-on, and assumes you have your story crystal clear. If you feel like you need help with your story, it might be better to start with  this blog with tips on how to write the story of your presentation .

1 Write conclusions, not descriptions.

It’s ‘good practise’ amongst scientists to put the title of a graph on the slide, as if that explains it all. Take this example: the original slide, while pretty clear otherwise, says ‘ Prevalence in 2012 of diabetes amongst Dutch men and women 25 years of age and over, separated by their highest completed level of education. ’

And, make no mistake, that is exactly what that graph shows. No criticism there, and this has its function in a journal. But the symptom becomes clear when you look at the one on the right: ‘ Diabetes more prevalent among the uneducated. ’

If your audience wanted data and complex graphs, they would read your article.

This simple adjustment brings the slide one step further in two ways. First of all, it’s taking the slide from being a presented version of the paper to a story. You want to tell a story, and this slide should help you do that. Presenting the raw data does not do that; you need to use those data to tell your story! And your audience would agree; if they wanted to read the graphs they could just go to Pubmed. The second reason to change your slides this way is that it saves valuable mental capacity in your audience. In other words: when they don’t have to crunch the numbers themselves, they have more attention left for you and your story!


2  No chart junk!

This one is easy, but oh, is it important. If you create slides with charts or graphs, make them clean. We can all see in 3D, so it’s really not remarkable enough to use it in your slides. Get rid of the grid lines, shadows, patterns, outlines and what not. Chart junk is basically the homeopathy of presentation design; it costs you a lot to make it, and doesn’t help your audience one bit.  By getting rid of the junk, you’re giving your audience a very clear image of what you want them to grasp from that slide.  Again, you want to waste none of their mental capacity on WordArt, so all of it goes to understanding your story.

Take these slides, with the same graph. The left one is hazy, and does not adhere to point 1 either. The right one is clear, descriptive and ready to be part of a narrative.

Example of chart junk in PowerPoint presentation slides

3  Get rid of things that do not support your message

What we just said about graphs goes for anything on a slide, really. If it does not serve the purpose (the goal and/or message that you  defined when you wrote the story ), get rid of it. This is true for images, clip-art (please don’t use that), graphs, pictures, animations etc. However, these elements should  never  be on your slide ‘because it’s so empty otherwise’.

Images and text

Images can enhance a presentation, but they can also take focus away from your main message, confuse or distract people, and reduce their bandwidth. If the image does not add support the goal of your presentation or the main message (or if it’s clip-art), it’s better to leave it out.

PowerPoint is not a teleprompter, don’t use it to read text out loud!

how to make a good science presentation

Your audience may be smart or in the same field as you are, that’s not an excuse to turn a presentation into an IQ test. Help them grasp it as smoothly as possible. If you can manage that, you have more time in your presentation to get your message across.  Read more about savouring mental capacity in your audience.

Research has shown that one of the main annoyances when it comes to presentations is too much text on a slide. Another reason to limit the amount of text is to keep yourself from reading the slides out loud.  The text is there to have an added value to your story, not to  be  the story.

4  Think about what your presentation will look like in the actual setting

Now, this may be simultaneously the easiest and the hardest thing to do. The easiest, because making your slides and text readable has nothing to do with the story – which is the hard part. On the other hand it’s challenging because it’s not easily done in the comfort of your own office.

Ideally, you have an opportunity to visit the room you will be presenting in. This will allow you to see what the colours, texts and other elements look like in this specific setting. In a perfect world you won’t need to do this, but we all know that no two beamers are the same, the proportion of screen size to the distance to the last row varies profoundly, and that – of  course ! – the sun happens to be shining on the table right in front of the screen at the time of your presentation.

Check out the scene of your presentation to prevent illegible slides

It’s difficult to give you specific advice on how to handle this, but the point is clear: try to see what it looks like before you’re up. With most multi-day conferences, you will have the opportunity to take a look in the room you’ll be using, and if you’re lucky you can try out some settings on the spot. If possible, try the presentation on the computer it’s shown on to prevent compatibility issues.

Don’t underestimate the power of this point; it’s easy to lose your audience on readability before you’ve even started, and that’s a waste of all your work. Good news is it’s quite easy to prevent it.

5  Forget about ‘conventional wisdom’


Well…you’d be wrong. Of course, such rules of thumb might be useful in some cases, but more often than not they prevent you from making a lasting impression. We believe they don’t warrant the religious following that they often enjoy.

And if you use one or two words per slide (or a single image), do you really think your audience will be phased if there are more than one slide per minute? No. We’ve seen amazing presentations where there were more than 150 slides in 45 minutes.

The fact that PowerPoint gives you room for a title on every new slide does not mean you have to use it!

What you want is to create a presentation that feels comfortable with the audience. It needs to be easy to digest to savour their mental bandwidth. Using less words, less frills and no junk will help you achieve that, even if you break all of the common conventions.

A strong start and a catchy ending

Then there’s some traditions about first and last slides.  Don’t use your first slide to tell your audience where they are  (they are already there), what day it is (they tend to know or not care), or who you are (they came, that counts for something!). Of course, when your H-index is not in the triple digits (yet…) you might want to introduce yourself, but it’s better to introduce yourself on the second or third slide if it’s necessary. A date really only is necessary for an online version of your presentation.

Don’t start with your name, date and location, and don’t end with a “Questions?” slide

Don’t let your presentation fade out with your last slide. Forget the slide with a cheesy image and in big font “Questions?”. This is confusing for the audience when there is no time for questions, or when the audience doesn’t have any. End with a slide containing your name and twitter handle, so people can follow you when they liked your talk and maybe repeat the most important message, so you’re sure it’s stuck in the heads of your audience.

If you follow these five steps, you can be sure that your slides become much clearer, and your presentation better. Yes, it takes effort that could also be spend on research or writing grant proposals. But that extra effort may also go a long way in audience engagement. And you never know where that may lead to…

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions or remarks about this blog. we’d love to help you out, share these tips with your colleagues, about the author: liesbeth smit, related posts.

PowerPoint: a double-edged sword

PowerPoint: a double-edged sword

How to write your scientific presentation in 5 easy steps

How to write your scientific presentation in 5 easy steps

Cerebrovascular Diseases


Presentation methods, delivering a presentation, study methods, discussion: transform, acknowledgements, how to prepare and deliver a scientific presentation : teaching course presentation at the 21st european stroke conference, lisboa, may 2012.

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Andrei V. Alexandrov , Michael G. Hennerici; How to Prepare and Deliver a Scientific Presentation : Teaching Course Presentation at the 21st European Stroke Conference, Lisboa, May 2012 . Cerebrovasc Dis 1 April 2013; 35 (3): 202–208.

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Background: A scientific presentation is a professional way to share your observation, introduce a hypothesis, demonstrate and interpret the results of a study, or summarize what is learned or to be studied on the subject. Presentation Methods: Commonly, presentations at major conferences include podium (oral, platform), poster or lecture, and if selected one should be prepared to PRESENT: P lan from the start (place integral parts of the presentation in logical sequence); R educe the amount of text and visual aids to the bare minimum; E lucidate (clarify) methods; S ummarize results and key messages; E ffectively deliver; N ote all shortcomings, and T ransform your own and the current thinking of others. We provide tips on how to achieve this. Presentation Results: After disclosing conflicts, if applicable, start with a brief summary of what is known and why it is required to investigate the subject. State the research question or the purpose of the lecture. For original presentations follow a structure: Introduction, Methods, Results, Conclusions. Invest a sufficient amount of time or poster space in describing the study methods. Clearly organize and deliver the results or synopsis of relevant studies. Include absolute numbers and simple statistics before showing advanced analyses. Remember to present one point at a time. Stay focused. Discuss study limitations. In a lecture or a podium talk or when standing by your poster, always think clearly, have a logical plan, gain audience attention, make them interested in your subject, excite their own thinking about the problem, listen to questions and carefully weigh the evidence that would justify the punch-line. Conclusions: Rank scientific evidence in your presentation appropriately. What may seem obvious may turn erroneous or more complex. Rehearse your presentation before you deliver it at a conference. Challenge yourself to dry runs with your most critically thinking colleagues. When the time comes, ace it with a clear mind, precise execution and fund of knowledge.

Over time communication standards between -scientists have evolved along with improved scientific method, increasing scrutiny of analyses and upholding to the highest level of evidence anything we call research. Scientific presentation is a professional way of sharing your observation, introducing a hypothesis, demonstrating and interpreting the results of a study, or -summarizing what has been learned or is to be studied on the subject. Professional presentations help disseminate research, make peers aware of novel approaches, findings or problems. These presentations make conferences memorable for both presenters and the audience. Anyone can recall the most exciting and most boring, the most clear and most convoluted, the most ‘-seriously?!' and the most ‘wow!!' presentations. Most presentations, however, fall in the in-between level of ‘so what?', ‘I did not quite get it …', or ‘maybe'. This means that all the work the authors have put in did not result in a paradigm shift, -advancement, or even ‘well, this is good to know' kind of an impact. We struggle to shape up our young presenters to make their science clear and visible, their presence known and their own networks grow.

Having initially struggled in preparing and delivering presentations ourselves, and having seen the many baby steps of our trainees now accomplished or shy of a track record, we have put together these suggestions on how to start, organize and accomplish what at first sight looks like a daunting task: presenting in front of people, many of whom may have expertise way beyond your own or who are scrutinizing every bit of data and ready to shred any evidence you might have to pieces. Unfortunately, there is no other way to advance science and become recognized than to survive this campaign from conception of a project to publication. This campaign has its own (often interim and hopefully not singular) culmination in a scientific presentation. This presentation also comes with question and answer sessions and importantly, with you and the audience possibly coming out of it with new messages, new thinking and even energy for breakthroughs, no matter how small or large the leap would be. So let's explore how to prepare and deliver a scientific presentation.

Currently, the common types of presentations at major conferences include podium (oral, platform), poster or lecture. Although seemingly different and at times some being more desirable over others, they all share the same prerequisites and challenges for successful execution. We will examine common threads and identify unique aspects of each type of these presentations. However, the first prerequisite for any scientific presentation (successful or not) is you, the presenter.

An effective presenter should have led the study, participated in the analysis and drafting of the abstract and manuscript, i.e. the presenter should know the subject of his or her talk inside out. One should therefore be prepared to PRESENT:

P lan from the start (place integral parts of the presentation in logical sequence);

R educe the amount of text and visual aids to the bare minimum;

E lucidate (clarify) methods;

S ummarize results and key messages;

E ffectively deliver;

N ote all shortcomings, and

T ransform your own and the current thinking of others.

So, as the scuba-diving instructors say: plan the dive, and dive the plan. The most important parts of scientific presentations should follow the logic of delivering the key messages. For the original presentations (platforms or posters), it is easy to simply follow the accepted abstracts, most often structured following the IMRaD principle: Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion (Conclusions).

Lecture format, content and logical flow of information often depend on the topic choice, which should be appropriate to the level of audience [ 1 ], time allotment and the target audience. Most competitive conferences offer short times even for invited lecturers as experts are expected to demonstrate cutting edge science, which assumes that the audience is already knowledgeable and the expert is capable of delivering information that sparks new thinking. The suggestion here to both novice and experienced speakers is to quickly summarize why the subject of presentation is important (catch audience attention [ 2,3 ]), where we are now (show the landscape of completed studies that established the common knowledge or conundrums, equipoise, etc.) and to move then to the latest advancements (this may include just-in publications, ongoing or planned future research or the most provocative take on the evidence out there).

Turning back to original presentations, advice is available on how to write abstracts following the IMRaD principle [ 4 ] and how to draft subsequent manuscripts [ 5 ]. We cannot stress enough the need to quickly follow-up the abstract submission with drafting the full manuscript. If the authors complete a manuscript before the presentation at a conference, the presenter will have a luxury of material to work with to compile either a set of slides for the podium or text and illustrations for the poster. If a manuscript was drafted and reviewed by coauthors, the challenge for a presenter is going to be a good one: trim down most sentences as both slides and posters benefit from short statements (not even full sentences) and large font sizes so that text can be easily read from a distance. Put yourself into the audience: your slides should be readable from the last row of a large room or a huge ballroom and your poster should be still readable from at least 2 m. The latter will allow better poster viewing by several people during guided poster tours or when a small group gathers spontaneously to view it.

This logically brings us to the second step: use bare minimum of any type of information to deliver your -presentation. Minimum text, minimum lines, minimum images, graphs, i.e. provide only the essential information as the audience attention span is short. Brevity, however, should not compromise quality: you should always stride to have the highest quality visual aids since these leave an impression on the audience [ 6 ] and good quality graphics are attributes of effective presentations [ 3 ].

At the same time, we cannot overemphasize the need to stick to time limits set for a specific presentation. Presenters should test their presentation in ‘real life' at home to their friends or at work in front of colleagues and ask for criticism. It is better to get criticism from members of the department (including your boss) than in a huge auditorium. Use a simple rule: an average talking time is 1 min per slide in oral presentations. You can then see how little you really can allocate to each slide if you load your talk with the most complicated visual presentation of data.

Let's go to the specifics. The ‘Introduction' slide usually includes a very brief description of background and should explicitly state the research question. Call it ‘Introduction and Study Purpose'. Adding a separate slide for study aims lengthens the talk. Fewer slides also reduce the chance of making an error when advancing them on the podium that can send presenters into further time deficit and stress, a commonplace even with those who know how to right-click.

Methods should have bullet points, not necessarily full sentences since you will be speaking over slides projecting or in front of the poster to connect brief statements showing behind you. The basic rule is not to read your slides or poster, nor tell the audience to read what the slide or poster says. Think of your slides or display material as a reminder to yourself of what you are supposed to say in detail and leave the noncritical words out of the slide and off the poster as it is an even easier source to pack with unreadable information. When you develop a presentation imagine you are a novice to the field who would like to be educated and taken on a journey while seeing and hearing the presentation. What can I learn in these few minutes? As the presenter, also think ‘what can I pass to the audience in these few minutes?' Further advice on how to plan, focus and arrange material to support key messages is available [ 7,8 ].

Results are the key part of any scientific presentation, podium, poster or lecture, and the most time, space and careful ascertainment should be allotted to this section as is necessary and feasible. It is vital to pack your presentation with data that support your key messages. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words but show only quint-essential images or graphs. If appropriate include statistics and make this easy in structure, i.e. use formats or values known by everybody such as odds ratios, Kaplan Meier curves, etc. (do not forget to include these data in the abstract as abstracts without data, numbers and calculations are often low rated or rejected). After presenting data, show what you think of that or what the limitations are since you thought more about this than the audience, at least through preparation of your own presentation.

The last two concluding paragraphs (poster), comments (this section of a lecture), or slides (podium) are supposed to cover study limitations and conclusions. These should be the most carefully thought through, strategically worded and evidence-based part of your presentation. Your reputation depends on the quality of data interpretation. Also, think about a take-home message with the main message you want to be remembered. When practicing your presentations, deliver your talk to your nonmedical spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend: by the end of your presentation he or she should be able to repeat the take home message with best-prepared presentations.

After conclusions, an ‘Acknowledgements' slide is nice to have at the end showing whom you are grateful to, but it will not rescue a hopeless presentation. The ‘thanks to my colleagues' should not come at the expense of time, quality and content of your scientific presentation. There is no need to thank multiple people like they often do at the Oscars. You have to rationally consider who and when to acknowledge if their functions were important to your work but they were not listed among coauthors. If you received funding to support your work, it is very important where appropriate or at the end of the presentation to acknowledge your sponsors or grant providers (such as NIH Institute and grant number, MRC grant, INSERM or DFG labels, etc.). The higher the scientific level of the grant donors, the more your presentation will be recognized.

While preparing any part of your presentation, remind yourself to check whether the included material is any good and worthy of inclusion. You can simply ask, ‘am I wasting time during the oral presentation or space in the poster by including this and that?' The answer lies in checking if this material is directly related to the study aim, data obtained, or in support of conclusions drawn.

Table 1 summarizes how you should structure the sequence of slides for the podium presentation. If you are only given 8 min to present + 2 min for questions (10 min total), you can see that with 8 mandatory slides you are already at the limit of 1 min per slide. In due course, we will give you tips on how to reallocate time within your presentation to expand the Methods and, most importantly, the Results section as needed.

Basic structure for a podium presentation of an original paper

Basic structure for a podium presentation of an original paper

Always clarify study methods. Posters offer a greater freedom since you can show details of your experimental setup or the methodology of your study design. A podium presentation often requires abbreviated mention of key elements of design, scales, inclusion/exclusion criteria, intervention or dependent variables and outcomes. This requires diligent work with your coauthors and biostatisticians to make sure that you are brief but clear and sufficient.

A well-assembled Methods section will lead to a shorter Results summary since your clear statement of the study aim and key methodology logically leads to audience anticipation of the primary end-point findings. There are key messages and delivered data points that distinguish effective and clear presentations from those resulting in confusion and further guesswork.

Effective presenters capture audience attention and stay focused on key messages [ 1,2,3,6,7,8 ]. A study was performed at scientific conferences asking reviewers to identify the best features of effective presentations [ 3 . ]The most frequent comments on best features of presentations with respect to ‘content' were identifying a key concept (43% of presentations) and relevance (43%). Best features in evaluations of ‘slides' were clarity (50%), graphics (27.3%) and readability of the text and font size (23%). Finally, best features in ‘presentation style' were clarity (59%), pace (52%), voice (48%), engaging with the audience (43%), addressing questions (34%) and eye contact (28%) [ 3 ].

Here are some tips on how to avoid forcing yourself to rush during a talk. Before you start (usually in the intermission or just before your session) familiarize yourself with the podium and learn how to advance slides and operate the pointer or point with the mouse. If you stumble at the beginning, you start your presentation with a time deficit.

Get to the podium while you are being introduced and start right away (it is the responsibility of the moderator to properly announce you, your team and the title of the talk and it is the responsibility of the conference organizers to have your title slide showing during the moderator's announcement). Do not read or repeat your study title. Thank the moderators and while the title slide is showing you may consider briefly thanking your coauthors/mentor here in just a few seconds.

Show the ‘Conflicts of Interest' slide next and disclose if any conflicts are related to the study subject. If they exist, conflicts should be acknowledged briefly but clearly. Do not show a slide with several conflicts and tell the audience ‘here are my conflicts' and switch to the next slide. It is important to simply say, ‘pertinent to this study I have …' or ‘this study includes an off-label or investigational use of …'. Now you are logically ready to turn to the subject of your presentation.

Start with a brief summary of what is known and why is it important to investigate the subject. This -introduces the audience to the subject of research and starts the flow of logic. If you are facing a challenge to present a complex study within in a short allotted period of time (such as 8 min for podium or a just a few minutes during a guided poster tour), do not waste time. You may cut to the chase and simply say why you did the study. Coming with straight forward messages, which are authentic and concerned about the scientific question, gets you more credit with the audience than careful orchestration of a perceived equipoise. However, we have digressed.

For an effective message delivery, identify two people towards opposite far ends of the audience and speak as if you are personally talking to one of them at a time and alternate between them. If lights shining in your face are too bright, still look towards the back of the room (or from time to time directly into the camera if your talk is being shown on monitors in a large ballroom) and do not bury your head into the podium or notes that you might have brought with you. The nonverbal part of any presentation and the presenter's body language are also important [ 6 ]. At all cost avoid bringing notes with you to any scientific presentation since you should have practiced your talk enough to remember it or you should be familiar with the subject of your lecture to the point that even if you have just been woken up, you can still maintain an intelligent conversation. Do not count on ‘it will come to me' - practice your talk! Further advice on effective presenting skill is available [ 2 ].

Remember that at international conferences many attendees are not native English-speaking people. Thus speak slowly and train your voice for best possible pronunciation! This recommendation is applicable to natives of English-speaking countries too. Native English speakers from the UK, Commonwealth countries and the USA tend to speak fast, with a variety of accents that international audiences may not understand easily while the interpreters may not be able to keep up. When speaking, do not turn away from the audience and look at your slide projection on the main screen or at your poster all the time. If it is necessary to remind yourself what to talk about next, advance the slide, briefly glance at it, turn to the audience and continue your presentation. Turn to your slide again only if you have to use a laser pointer or a mouse on the computer screen. Do so briefly, underline the important finding, point to the key part of an image and avoid long circular pointer motions around the whole text line or big areas of graphic illustrations. It is distracting. Try to use the pointer only when necessary and do not read your slides with the pointer constantly aiming at where you are reading.

When presenting your methods, clearly state the type of study, e.g. retrospective analysis, case series, -cohort or controlled trials, etc., and describe patient inclusion/exclusion criteria. If too numerous, only list the major ones. As an example, in a clinical trial of a fibrinolytic agent the list of exclusion criteria could be very extensive, so how can you present this on a dime? Your slide should focus on the key inclusion criteria since a patient who did not have those was obviously excluded, and an audience at a stroke conference is generally familiar with multiple exclusion criteria for tissue plasminogen activator treatment. So, your slide or poster may have the following in it (highlighted in bold ) to which you may add the plain text in your (limited) verbal statements:

Our Major Inclusion Criteria: were

• total Pre-treatment NIHSS score >6 points

• Presence of mismatch on MRI determined by -( EPTITHET ) trial criteria

• Age <80 years and

• Time from symptom onset <8 h

After that, you may omit including a slide with the long list of exclusions in favor of time. If there is a -specific contraindication new to the treatment agent in your study, you could say ‘in addition to well-known contraindications for systemic thrombolysis, patients were excluded if they had …' at the end of showing the ‘Major Inclusion Criteria' slide as shown above. Similarly, in a poster, list only the most relevant inclusion and exclusion criteria and walk the audience through the methods without stumbling on too many detail -disclosures. The audience will lose track of where you are going.

It is important to keep a balance between sufficient disclosure of study methods and the length of this part of your presentation. It is always helpful if you have a prior study that used a similar or from which you developed your methodology that has already been published - you may show a reference to this study and move on faster without sacrificing the quality. For example, ‘ultrasound tests were done by experienced sonographers using a previously published standard protocol', ‘CT scans were read independently using the ASPECTS score', and ‘sICH was defined by the SITS-MOST criteria'. Say this while showing or pointing to the line and published source reference on your visual aid.

Clearly organize and deliver the Results section. Include absolute numbers and simple statistics before showing advanced analyses. Remember not to show data in Methods and equally so do not introduce new methods when presenting Results. As a rule, describe characteristics of the general study population or balance/imbalances between target and control groups. Follow this by a slide that shows the primary end-point findings or observations that directly address the study aim or research question. This follows the logic of a scientific presentation and will help you avoid deviations to side observations no matter how unexpected or valuable they seem. Stay the course, address the main question first and only then show additional findings. When presenting a poster, point to the area where the key results are displayed. Unlike a slide presentation or lecture where the audience is forced to see one slide at a time, busy posters could be distracting. Posters that are heavily packed with graphs, images, tables and text are often difficult to follow during a brief guided poster presentation tour. It is the presenter's responsibility to drive the audience attention to key results in a logical sequence. When you present a graph, start by telling the audience what is shown and in what units on each access, and briefly point to the numbers on each axis.

Remember to present one point at a time. It makes common sense but sometimes may be difficult to follow if complex experiments or studies with multiple confounding variables have to be navigated through a brief presentation. Do not lose sight of your original research question or the objective of your lecture. Remember what you have shown so far, and what logically should be shown next. If you are pressed on time or made a mistake while advancing slides, take a deep breath and relax. Clear state of mind will buy you time. Racing thoughts such as ‘I have to cover that and that, and oh, that too' are not helpful. Dry runs, or practice presentations are essential for you to master the material that you need to present.

After finishing the Results part of your presentation, remember not to introduce more new results in Discussion and Conclusions. That surprise is hard for the audience to process. If you'd like to reemphasize the main finding, use the following suggestion. Let's say your goal was to show the prevalence of a new syndrome in your study population and you found it to be 24% (your primary research question). Unexpectedly, you also found that patients with this syndrome have an increased risk of dying (RR 2.08, 95% CI 1.23-4.34). These numbers and statistics obviously belong to the Results section. However, you want to stress in your conclusion once again how important your finding is. You can present it as follows: ‘Conclusions: nearly a quarter of stroke patients can be affected by this new syndrome and, if present, it doubles the patient chance of dying in hospital'. This recaps the main finding and makes practical interpretation of the relative risk estimate.

Before you jump into Conclusions, however, we always encourage presenters to note and openly discuss current study limitations. This improves your own assessment for biases and ranking of the level of obtained evidence. If you do not disclose the obvious study limitations, you will most likely receive questions after your presentation that will point to these shortcomings. Thus, instead of a positive discussion of how your study advances our knowledge, the discussion with the audience will focus on shortcomings and the key message may be lost with the negative audience response. Unlike Twitter™ or future media-based quick popularity scores, science can only advance when it endures the highest scrutiny (even though in the future presenters may be concurrently judged by the audience as our technologies improve). Regardless, if you are a good scientist, prepare yourself to stand the ground if the evidence is behind you. Be proactive, acknowledge study limitations and how you attempted to control for biases, etc.

In a lecture or a podium talk or when standing by your poster, always think clearly, have a logical plan for presentation parts that should be covered next, gain audience attention, make them interested in your subject, excite their own thinking about the problem, listen to questions and carefully weigh the evidence that would justify the punch-line. This will support your conclusions!

With posters, we often see a Discussion section but no conclusions listed, or they are listed in the abstract but not in the poster itself. This will lead to an obvious question after you stop presenting: ‘So, what is your take on this?' Our advice is, have your conclusions listed and be prepared to defend them point-by-point as the question and answer part could be challenging. If you do not understand the question, ask for clarification rather than talk nonsense.

To arrive at the right conclusions, you have to rank scientific evidence in your presentation appropriately. What may seem obvious may turn erroneous or more complex at a closer look by experts. Helpful hints here include you maintaining careful documentation while you are conceiving the project, designing it with your colleagues and consulting with a biostatistician on all steps taken in ascertaining the study population, interventions, end-point data collection and bias verification. Put all methodological issues against your findings and this will give you an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your study. Preparing and delivering your presentation is a great experience to see if your knowledge and gained expertise stand up to peer scrutiny.

Rehearse your presentation before you deliver it at a conference. Challenge yourself to dry runs with your most critically thinking colleagues. Quite often, it is not the presentation itself but these questions, comments and subsequent late night debates with your colleagues that bring new thinking, advance our understanding and spark new ideas. This is the chance to transform your own current thinking and that of your peers. Think about your upcoming presentation, whether it is a podium, poster or lecture, as an opportunity, a launch pad, a reward for the hard work you did to bring this project to the attention of the scientific community.

When time comes, ace it with a clear mind, precise execution and fund of knowledge.

Before his first oral presentation in English, Dr. Alexandrov was nervous and asked his mentor, Dr. John W. Norris, for a dry run. Dr. Norris generously came to listen to him at 10 p.m. the night before, and Dr. Alexandrov survived his talk.

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How to make a great presentation

Stressed about an upcoming presentation? These talks are full of helpful tips on how to get up in front of an audience and make a lasting impression.

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How to Make a “Good” Presentation “Great”

  • Guy Kawasaki

how to make a good science presentation

Remember: Less is more.

A strong presentation is so much more than information pasted onto a series of slides with fancy backgrounds. Whether you’re pitching an idea, reporting market research, or sharing something else, a great presentation can give you a competitive advantage, and be a powerful tool when aiming to persuade, educate, or inspire others. Here are some unique elements that make a presentation stand out.

  • Fonts: Sans Serif fonts such as Helvetica or Arial are preferred for their clean lines, which make them easy to digest at various sizes and distances. Limit the number of font styles to two: one for headings and another for body text, to avoid visual confusion or distractions.
  • Colors: Colors can evoke emotions and highlight critical points, but their overuse can lead to a cluttered and confusing presentation. A limited palette of two to three main colors, complemented by a simple background, can help you draw attention to key elements without overwhelming the audience.
  • Pictures: Pictures can communicate complex ideas quickly and memorably but choosing the right images is key. Images or pictures should be big (perhaps 20-25% of the page), bold, and have a clear purpose that complements the slide’s text.
  • Layout: Don’t overcrowd your slides with too much information. When in doubt, adhere to the principle of simplicity, and aim for a clean and uncluttered layout with plenty of white space around text and images. Think phrases and bullets, not sentences.

As an intern or early career professional, chances are that you’ll be tasked with making or giving a presentation in the near future. Whether you’re pitching an idea, reporting market research, or sharing something else, a great presentation can give you a competitive advantage, and be a powerful tool when aiming to persuade, educate, or inspire others.

how to make a good science presentation

  • Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist at Canva and was the former chief evangelist at Apple. Guy is the author of 16 books including Think Remarkable : 9 Paths to Transform Your Life and Make a Difference.

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Science Projects > Science Fair Projects > Science Fair Tips  

Science Fair Tips

So, you’re entering a science fair. Now what? These six simple science fair tips will take you from picking your project to nailing your presentation. And who knows — you may even have some fun along the way!

Science Fair Tip #1

science fair tips

Science Fair Tip #2

Don’t reinvent the wheel with your science fair topic . A good topic can have revolutionary ideas, but more importantly, judges will want to know what you learned (and if you used the scientific method ) . Hint: It’s OK to take an existing science project and use it as your own! Just modify the variables you test to make your project unique.

Topics that relate to current issues and concerns in society tend to score high points in science fairs. However, you still need to thoroughly think it through and research well to score high. Such topics usually relate to how we can improve or maintain our health, welfare, and/or way of life. We suggest avoiding politically charged topics, if necessary. It is hard to stay neutral, and it is usually hard, if not impossible, to scientifically test your theory.

Science Fair Tip #3

Do your own work . Judges will evaluate what you know about your project and what you learned during the process of your project — from start to finish. If your parent, brother or sister, friend, or classmate does all your work, you won’t learn anything. Where’s the fun in that? 

Science Fair Tip #4

Make sure your project is a science project . To be considered a science fair project , your project must use the scientific method and answer a question . So, you must collect and analyze data in order to conclude whether or not your hypothesis was correct. Demonstrating how something works is not a science project. For example, demonstrating a collection of magic eye tricks does not constitute a science project because no data was collected.

However, if you compare how long it takes specific groups of people (such as children and adults, boys and girls) to see the magic eye tricks, then you have a science project. Why? Because you are collecting data and you can use that data to draw conclusions. (Although elementary science fairs have permitted observation/demonstration projects in the past, more and more science fairs also want elementary students to use the scientific method and collect data. Therefore, it’s best to cover your bases and avoid doing a simple observation/demonstration project.)

Science Fair Tip #5

Keep your project simple . Try to test only one variable or one hypothesis in your project. The more experiments in the project, the harder it is to keep track of all the factors that influence your science project. After all, there is always next year to expand on this year’s project. Consult our Science Fair Guide for more information on c om pleting a science fair project.

science fair tips

Science Fair Tip #6

Relax during the interview when presenting your project . The judges aren’t there to torment you or pick apart your project. Instead, they want to see that you did your own work (based on how well you understand your project), that your project addresses all parts of the scientific method, that you did the steps correctly, and that you identified any factors that may have caused inaccurate results. Many judges want to know how you can improve your science project, or what you would change to correct inaccuracies. The best advice we can offer you for the interview is this: know your project inside and out.

Armed with these science fair tips, the scientific method, and our science fair guide , you might be bummed that science fair only comes once a year!

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Art of Presentations

25 Useful Presentation Topics for Science

By: Author Shrot Katewa

25 Useful Presentation Topics for Science

We are mostly asked questions about Presentation Design. But, sometimes, we do have our patrons reaching out to us to seek help with the “content” that needs to be created even before we begin with the design of the presentation.

So, today we are sharing a few really easy-to-cover super useful presentation topics for Science. This is especially helpful for all those teachers and parents who are looking to increase the curiosity of aspiring students and children.

So, let’s dive right into it –

A Quick Note Before We Begin – if you want to make jaw-dropping presentations, I would recommend using one of these Presentation Designs . The best part is – it is only $16.5 a month, but you get to download and use as many presentation designs as you like! I personally use it from time-to-time, and it makes my task of making beautiful presentations really quick and easy!

1. Big Bang Theory – Origin of Our Universe

As a kid, I was always curious about how we came into existence! How the planet Earth was created? How did it all start? This is a great topic to really generate and at times, even quench the curiosity of your students or children. While it is a great topic for presentation in class, it is also an equally good topic for a dinner conversation with your kids.

2. DNA structure

Our DNA is the very core of our life. If the Big Bang Theory is how the universe came into being, DNA is where our personal journey begins. While the structure of DNA is quite fascinating, the impact it has on our lives and how it affects our characteristics is mind-boggling!

It is another great topic for a Science Presentation. Do keep in mind, use of visual aids will most likely improve comprehension and retention among your audience.

3. Gene Editing & Its Uses

In case you choose to go with the previous topic of DNA, Gene Editing serves as a perfect extension of that topic even though it can be a great topic in itself. Sharing insights on Gene Editing and how it works, can showcase the capacity of human endeavors and its resolve to make things better.

4. Important Discoveries of Science

Okay, so this can really be a fun topic. As a kid, it was always fascinating to know about some of the world’s greatest discoveries and inventions.

Be it Penicillium or the first flight by the Wright Brothers, such topics allow you to take your audience on a journey and relive the times in which these discoveries and inventions were made. The thing that I like the most about this topic is that it doesn’t have to be completed in one session.

In fact, this can be turned into a knowledge series of multiple sessions as the list of discoveries is endless.

5. Aerodynamics

Most kids and students are really fascinated with planes. But, only a few really understand the basic principles of how a plane works. Explaining Aerodynamics can be an interesting topic.

It also allows you to introduce props such as a plane and practical exercises such as creating your own plane and analyzing its aerodynamics. The introduction of visuals for such a topic can greatly enhance the learning experience.

So this is a topic that most of the kids and students would have at least heard of, most might know about it a little. But very few would really understand how gravity truly changed our concepts not just on Earth, but also beyond our Planet in our Solar System.

Gravity alone is responsible for the tectonic shift of mindset that the Earth was the center of our Solar System to the fact that the Sun is the center of our Solar System around which the rest of the planets revolve. That and much more!

Explaining the stories of Galileo who first challenged this assumption and how Newton turned everything we knew upside down (almost literally!)

7. Photosynthesis

Another interesting Science topic for a presentation.

How do non-moving organisms produce and consume food? How Photosynthesis is not just limited to trees but virtually drives all lifeforms on Earth through the transfer of energy.

Also, touching upon the fact how Photosynthesis has led to the revolutionary discovery of Solar cells and how it is potentially going to be powering our future.

8. Artificial Intelligence – Boon or Bane

When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, there is a lot that we can do to engage the curiosity of our kids and students. It is an evolving part of Science as we haven’t fully applied and utilized AI.

One of the reasons this can be a great topic is because it engages your students or kids to really think. You may consider forming 2 teams and allowing an open debate on how AI could be a boon or a bane – a great way to promote cross-learning.

9. Ocean – The Unknown World

Our Ocean is what sets our planet Earth apart from the other planets in our solar planet. It is not only one of the main factors contributing to life on earth, the Ocean holds a world of its own with hidden creatures which have only recently been explored.

There is a lot to cover when it comes to the Ocean. Don’t limit your imagination to just lifeforms as you can even talk about treasures troves contained in the ships that sank!

10. Astronomy

So I have a confession to make. Which is this – Astronomy astonished me as a kid, and it amazes me even now! There have been countless nights that I gazed at the stars in the sky in amazement trying to locate a planet, and falling stars and other man-made satellites in the sky.

This is not just an amazing topic for a presentation, but if you could get hold of a telescope for a practical session, it will make a night to remember for the kids and the students!

11. Light and its effects

This is another topic that can turn into a great practical session!

Presentations can be accompanied by a trip to the physics lab or even using equipment like a prism to take the session experience of your audience to a totally different level! Experiencing the various colors that form light is one thing, but understanding how it impacts almost every single thing in our day-to-day activities makes us admire it.

12. Atoms – Building Blocks of Matter

While there is a whole universe outside of our Planet, there is a completely different world that exists when we go granular inside any matter.

There are literally billions and billions of atoms inside just our human body. Each atom has its own world making it as diverse as you can imagine.

How these atoms interact with each other and what makes an atom can be a really engaging topic to bubble the curiosity of the students or your kids!

13. Sound & Waves

Another super interesting presentation topic for Science for kids and students is to understand how Sound works.

There are several things to cover as part of this ranging from simple waves to frequency and resonance experiments. Sound is not just a good topic for a presentation but also for experiments and physical demos.

14. Technology

Technology as a topic has a lot to cover. As we all know that technology touches each of our lives on a daily basis, students can find this topic relatable quite easily. The canvas for exploration and presentation is quite broad giving you a wide range of technology topics to present from.

15. Human Brain

Many believe that we only use 10% of the capacity of our human brain. We have to date only barely managed to understand how our brain works.

Even the parts that we have gathered an understanding about, we don’t quite fully understand. The human brain has remained a topic of astonishment for scientists for a long time. It is only logical to conclude that if presented effectively, this can be a good presentation topic on science.

16. Evolution

When Charles Darwin presented his Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection in his book “The Origin of Species”, it took the world of science by storm.

How the species have evolved over a period of millions of years is quite interesting. There were quite a few interesting learnings that Darwin had and he shared that as a summary. This is something that has been also covered in the TV series Cosmos by Neil Degrasse Tyson.

I highly recommend giving this TV series a watch to get inspiration for some topics for presentation.

17. Magnetism

The majority of the kids have handled and spent hours in awe playing with a magnet. Many try to understand how a magnet really works! But, only a few are able to really understand the science behind it.

Magnetism can be a really fun topic to give a presentation on. Additionally, this topic also allows enough space to display, experiment, and have fun with real magnet and iron filings to showcase the effect of magnetism.

18. Electricity

Electricity is pretty much everywhere.

Today, if there is no electricity, the region is considered underdeveloped or backward. The discovery and the use of electricity is probably one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century.

It has been single-handedly responsible for industrialization, powering growth, and the development of the human race.

19. Steam Engine

Steam Engine was the first step of the human race towards powered locomotives.

From the discovery of the steam engine to how it was responsible for creating a time standard and time zones along with the stories related to it, can all be very fascinating and take you back in time to relive history!

A perfect presentation topic for science students.

20. Science of Medicine

No list of presentation topics for Science would be complete without mentioning medicine and its benefits.

The discovery of medicines and drugs has been responsible for nearly doubling the average human age. The impact is far-reaching with several pros and cons that constitute an interesting topic for presentation.

21. Periodic Table

Students often find this topic very dull. However, if you can help them understand the beauty and significance of this periodic table, it can be an amazing topic.

To really understand how Mendeleev could predict the existence of various elements even before they were discovered, is mind-boggling!

The periodic table is such a perfect table that explains how the elements are arranged in a well-structured manner in nature. This topic can be turned into a very interesting topic but a bit of effort and some out-of-the-box thinking may be required.

22. Buoyancy

Okay, so we all may have heard the story of Archimedes in a bathtub and how he shouted “Eureka” when he managed to solve the problem that was tasked to him. He did this using the Buoyancy principle.

While this story is something we relate to buoyancy the most, there is a lot more than we can truly learn and apply using this principle. This can be a very helpful topic for a presentation as well as a practical science experiment.

23. Health & Nutrition

Health & Nutrition is a very important aspect of our life. Its importance is often not completely understood by kids and students alike. Presenting about Health & Nutrition can go a long way to benefit the students to maintain a very healthy life!

24. Our Solar System

Our Solar System is a topic that is mostly taught since you join the school.

However, while most of us know about our solar system, there are enough mysteries about it to capture and captivate the attention of your audience. Questions like – why is Pluto not a planet anymore?

Or other questions such as – are we alone in this universe or even topics around the Sun as a star or even the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter can all lead to great engaging presentations and discussions.

25. Stem Cell

Stem cell research has become cutting-edge medical research. Thus, it is often a hot topic for discussion but is often not completely understood.

This topic will also provide you an opportunity to engage your audience in a debate that could be centered around the ethics of stem cells and their application.

This is a perfect topic as this allows your students or kids to learn and share their opinion with others.

Science is a vast world. Even though there are several other topics that can be covered, we decided to list topics that are relatively common such that it widely applies to a large set of people. If you have shortlisted your presentation topic and are looking for help to create a visually appealing presentation that captures the attention of your audience, be sure to reach out to us!

Our goal on this blog is to create content that helps YOU create fantastic presentations; especially if you have never been a designer. We’ve started our blog with non-designers in mind, and we have got some amazing content on our site to help YOU design better.

If you have any topics in mind that you would want us to write about, be sure to drop us a comment below. In case you need us to work with you and improve the design of your presentation, write to us on [email protected] . Our team will be happy to help you with your requirements.

Lastly, your contribution can make this world a better place for presentations . All you have to do is simply share this blog in your network and help other fellow non-designers with their designs!


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    Science Fair Tip #5. Keep your project simple. Try to test only one variable or one hypothesis in your project. The more experiments in the project, the harder it is to keep track of all the factors that influence your science project. After all, there is always next year to expand on this year's project. Consult our Science Fair Guide for ...

  24. 25 Useful Presentation Topics for Science

    This is a great topic to really generate and at times, even quench the curiosity of your students or children. While it is a great topic for presentation in class, it is also an equally good topic for a dinner conversation with your kids. 2. DNA structure. Our DNA is the very core of our life.