During the course of your research program, you will be required to deliver departmental presentations. You may attend and present at a range of conferences throughout your program. These presentations take a number of different forms, such as 20 minute conference presentations, conference round tables where you may only speak for 5-10 minutes, or 30-45 minute seminars outlining your research to your supervisors and colleagues. This page identifies the importance of a key message for any presentation. The subsequent pages take you through how to structure your presentation, prepare aids and finally deliver.
Know your audience
If you're doing a conference or departmental presentation, your audience will probably have vastly different levels of familiarity with your field. Some may already know the theories and concepts your research examines, whereas others may not. When developing a presentation, keep this in mind. How can you explain your research to a diverse audience?
Some tips include:
- explain theories, concepts, and other complex data in simple terms
- give clear, concise and accessible examples to illustrate your points
- avoid over-using theoretical jargon, and
- outline your key message and the structure of your talk at the beginning, so that your audience can more easily understand your key points.
Your key message
In the same way that your thesis or journal article should have a clear argument, a good presentation needs a clear message. This key message provides the focus of your presentation and gives it structure. Having a clear message helps you to communicate effectively and takes the focus away from merely delivering information.
What will be the scope of your talk?
The scope of your talk will be largely determined by the amount of time you have for the presentation. Don't be trapped into thinking about the amount of information you wish to convey. Rather consider how many points and how much detail you can deliver in the allocated time. In a presentation of twenty minutes, for instance, given that you need to introduce and conclude, and explain your ideas clearly to a diverse audience, you will usually be able to cover between two and four points, depending on the level of detail.
To determine the scope, first identify the key message of the talk. The sophistication and depth of the message is likely to be influenced by the presentation time.
Then identify the main points that best support this message. The number and depth of points will definitely be determined by your time.
You can also check out the Thesis Whisperer's advice on presentations, such as tips on how to plan the presentation and how to prepare for your first conference. The following pages examine how to structure, design and deliver your presentation.