Adding polish to presentations: 10 tips to make your talk shine

One of my greatest frustrations in life is sitting through bad presentations. Sadly, this is all too common in academia. We all know the signs:

  • Sparse, or nonexistent, background material
  • Too many slides full of bullet-point text (often read verbatim by the speaker)
  • Too many figures crammed on to a single slide
  • Speaker faces the screen while talking
  • Speaker has no passion, doesn’t seem to care much about their subject matter
  • No conclusion or summary to the talk, just data
  • Slides continuously vary in design, font choices etc.
  • Speaker overruns because they haven’t practiced

I could go on. I’ve been to so many talks where you can see audience members switch off after the first 5 minutes (and then usually reach for their smart phones to check their email). Bad talks become a waste of time for both the speaker and the audience. It doesn’t have to be this way. Indeed, it really shouldn’t be this way. You might be the greatest scientist the world has ever seen, but if you can’t communicate your research to others then there really is no point being in science. And by ‘communicate’ I mean making sure that people a) understand your talk and b) remember it.

Here are some slides (with notes) that list some relatively simple tips that I think could help many people who are new to giving presentations. These are tips that I have learned from many years of giving scientific talks in academia, but I think they could be useful to anybody who has to present their work to others.

10 tips for adding polish to presentations