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Entries in presentation skills (8)


Tips for Your Three-Minute Power Presentation

Don't Stand On A BarrelCredit: Funding PeerHere is some of what you may have missed at the workshop, "Captivate an Audience with Your Research Story: The Three-Minute Power Presentation," conducted by Jeffrey Hanson.

Story: Make your presentation a story: use exposition to develop your story, have a conflict and climax to create interest, and end with a resolution.

Content and Language: Leave your audience with one main idea and why this topic should matter to them. You should be able to sum up your idea in one sentence. Language should also be geared toward the audience: general for a general audience and more specific for a specialist audience.

Structure and Flow: Begin with an outline. Create an overarching story. Use genres such as problem and solution and compare and contrast to explain your points. Say what you will do and what you just did to help remind the audience about your points. Finally, start strong and end strong.

Visual Support: For a live presentation, your PowerPoint should NOT be understandable without you explaining it. Simpler is better. Too much text or graphics distracts and takes away from you as the presenter. For slides, use large fonts, high contrast, alignment, and proximity to make your organization and content understandable and easy to follow.

Delivery Style: Slower and smoother are better (slow is smooth and smooth is fast). Articulate your words as if you are speaking to a second-language speaker of English, not a friend you know well. Make eye contact with a friendly face in the audience: don't stare at the screen. Intonation should show your interest, not that you are boring.Credit: Funding Peer

Handling Q & A: Make sure you understand the question first: clarify if necessary. Begin your answer with the main point (yes, no, it depends) and then explain. Keep your answer short: about two to three sentences. Never argue. State you can discuss it more at another time.

Stress: Stress is good. It's a sign that you care about your presentation. To combat stress, practice and prepare until you know your material so well that you are bored with it.

For more information on how to present well, check out the online workshop resources.

To attend a workshop, RSVP for one of the two remaining sessions.


Session 2:

Wednesday, March 26, 3:30 to 5 p.m., ED 1217.

Guest Speaker: Don Lubach, Associate Dean of Students.


Session 3:

Wednesday, April 2, 3:30 to 5 p.m., Elings 1601.

Guest Speaker: M. Scott Shell, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering.


Sign up now to participate in the 2014 UCSB Grad Slam:


All workshops are sponsored by the Graduate Division, the Writing Program, and the Professional Development series at the Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships (CSEP).



Presentation Skills: When Technology Fails

Presenting at the CUE Conference"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." ~Murphy's Law

Technology never ceases to amaze me. I can power up my iPhone and find an answer to almost anything in less than a second. Yet, when I depend on technology the most, it always finds a way to challenge me. 

While gearing up to present at an education technology conference earlier this quarter, I discovered that not only did my conference room not have wi-fi, but also that my laptop was unable to connect to Internet. To top that off, my laptop froze twice during my presentation. Oh the irony! I was prepared to amaze educators, administrators, and technology specialists with a collection of technology tools that they could use for ongoing learning and support, yet I ended up stuck in a room without Internet access and a faulty computer. 

Fortunately, I had a backup PowerPoint with screenshots and step-by-step instructions for the tools that I wanted to share with the audience. I quickly pulled up that PowerPoint and toggled back-and-forth between my new PowerPoint and the backup PowerPoint. I also had to make many on-the-spot adjustments throughout the presentation since I had planned to facilitate a variety of online activities. Luckily, the audience still enjoyed my presentation and gave me high evaluation scores.

So, if you are planning on using a PowerPoint, the Internet, or any other technology tool while teaching or presenting, I hope that you will learn from my experience and make sure to have a backup plan:

  • Print out copies of the slides or an outline of your talk for the audience.
  • If you have an online activity planned, make sure the audience can still participate even if they cannot access the Internet.
  • Go to your conference room early and set aside time to address any technology issues.
  • Check ahead to see whether your conference room will have wi-fi access, a projector, and a cable to connect your specific computer to the projector.
  • Always have your files backed up on a flash drive!

And, don't forget to breathe! If something does go wrong during your presentation, take a deep breath, consider your options, and move on.

One final tip: If the problem is technology-related, turn the device off, unplug it, wait 10 seconds, plug it back in, and turn it back on. You will be amazed at how often this solves your problem.


Tips for Presenting at Conferences

I recently returned from the ever-so-popular American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference. More than 15,000 faculty, educational reformers, students, experts, and even Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, took over downtown San Francisco for a weeklong conference. I have to admit, my expectations were pretty high. The people who I had been citing in my papers would be presenting their research (I was star-struck!). Every two-hour time block for the entire week had 30 to 40 paper, poster, and roundtable sessions. It was hard to pick and choose, knowing that I would have to miss out on some of the sessions. 

The hardest part was getting stuck in a very boring two-hour session, in which all I could think about was that I could be at other better sessions. Unfortunately, this was a common experience. The problem: presentation skills.

So many sessions were filled with presenters who read directly from their papers or presented so much data that I could not keep track of what was being said. Many presenters focused strongly on methodology and by the time the presentation ended, I was unsure what the results were. If I want to read the paper and look in depth at the statistics and methodology, I can do that outside of the conference.

I feel like the conference is a time to sell your paper to the audience. The goal is to get the audience engaged and interested in your research so that they follow up with you and ask for copies of your paper to learn more about your research.

I did attend two outstanding sessions in which I took copious amounts of notes and recorded the titles of the papers to look up at a later date. What did these presenters do differently? They started the presentation with a hook to engage the audience. They briefly discussed the methodology and then spent the majority of the time talking about the results. They finished strong with implications for society and recommendations for future research. They also used visuals rather than text and they did not read from their slides or papers.

Not surprisingly, AERA even offers these same recommendations in its presentation tips section (see "Making Academic Presentations - Effectively!").

Of course, these recommendations may not be for every field or conference. The key is to know your audience and what they want. Is it a general public audience or a group of experts? Do they care more about your data and methodology or do they want a summary of your paper? See if your conference website offers presentation tips or ask faculty about the presentation format and goals to make sure you prepare accordingly.

I was fortunate to come across AERA's presentation tips webpage when designing my presentation. The tips really helped me improve my presentation and I have received multiple requests for my full paper from audience members since my presentation.


Preventing 'Death by PowerPoint'

5 Ways to Reduce PowerPoint Overload screenshotPowerPoint is tricky tool. When it is used well, it can effectively enhance learning. However, most of the time PowerPoint presentations increase the cognitive load of the learner and result in a poor learning experience.

How do you build a well-designed PowerPoint presentation? First, organize the script or outline of your presentation. Then, design the PowerPoint slides using visuals to supplement your narrative.

Make sure your PowerPoint adheres to the design principles in Richard Mayer's and Cliff Atkinson's Five Ways to Reduce PowerPoint Overload article:

  1. Write a clear headline the explains the main point for the slide
  2. Break up the story into small chunks
  3. Move text off the screen and narrate the content
  4. Use visuals
  5. Remove any element that does not support the main idea of the slide

Also, read our GradPost article, "The Art of Presenting with PowerPoint."

If you have any questions about how to build an effective PowerPoint, feel free to drop by the Graduate Student Resource Center to meet with Whitney Winn, Director of Retention Services, or Torrey Trust, Academic Peer.


Presentation Tips: Melissa Marshall's "Talk Nerdy to Me" TED Talk

How can you wow your audience with a presentation about your research?

The TED Blog article, "6 Tips on How Scientists and Engineers Can Excite, Rather Than Bore, an Audience," features advice from Melissa Marshall, a communications teacher, about how to engage your audience during a presentation. While this article is geared toward scientists and engineers, the advice is useful for graduate students in all departments.

Marshall's six key points are as follows:

  • Be aware of your audience
  • Show the relevance
  • Paint a picture
  • Make numbers meaningful
  • Banish bullet points
  • Deliver dynamically

These tips draw from popular learning theories. Keller's ARCS Model of Motivation Design describes how a presenter should grab the attention of the audience and state the relevance of the content. Marshall also highlights the importance of preventing cognitive overload from "death by PowerPoint." Check out Dr. Richard Mayer's "5 Ways to Reduce PowerPoint Overload" to learn how you can share information in a PowerPoint without overwhelming the audience.

For more advice and tips, watch Melissa Marshall's "Talk Nerdy to Me" TED Talk.


Presentation Skills: Overcoming Stage Fright's Stage Fright Pre-Game ChecklistLet’s face it, presenting in front of an audience, whether it’s your classmates or professionals in your field, can be intimidating. Everyone gets nervous before presenting – it’s natural. However, sometimes this nervousness can grow into a heart-pounding, fear-filled anxiety. Don’t let it get to that point! recently published an article called, “Eliminate Stage Fright with a Pre-game Checklist.” 

In this article, Thorin Klosowski includes tips for preparing (practice, memorize part of the presentation, and prepare answers to common questions ahead of time) and calming yourself before the presentation. There is even a pocket-sized checklist you can print out and use during your next presentation: pocketsizedstagefright.pdf

Being prepared and relaxed can significantly improve your presentation and your experience.

How do you get over stage fright when presenting? Share your tips in the comments section.


Preparing to Present at Conferences or Meetings


Tuft's Grad Matters Blog logo

The Tufts University Grad Matters blog recently featured an article called, "Road Warriors: What Every Grad Student Needs to Know About Presenting at Conferences or Meetings." This article provides helpful tips and advice for presenting at and attending conferences. Some of the key highlights are:

  • Bring a paper and electronic copy (in the event that the technology fails)
  • Make sure your presentation fits within the time limit
  • Focus your conference schedule (don't try to see everything)
  • Turn every opportunity into a networking event

If you have a few moments to spare, read the article in its entirety to learn how you can be better prepared for your next presentation experience.


The Art of Presenting With PowerPoint

Creating a presentation that captures an audience is an art. The late Steve Jobs was known for his ability to engage an audience with very simplistic visuals. Watch as Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad (YouTube video):

Jobs used very minimal text, large images, and mostly narration to make his point.

As graduate students, we use PowerPoint more often than we’d like to (presentations for classes, workshops, conferences, dissertation defense, etc…). Here are some key tips to help you make sure your PowerPoint presentation is a visual aid and not a burden on the cognitive load of your audience:

  • Minimize text (less than 6 lines of text per slide) Visual Design Presentation by Dr. George Michaels
    • People read faster than they process what you are saying. If you are reading aloud the text on your PowerPoint slide, then your audience will finish ahead of you and wait in boredom until you are done.
  • Maximize text font (people in the back need to see the text)
  • Use simple images to make a point (do not add unnecessary images that may distract your audience)
  • Aim for 15 to 20 slides for a 30-minute presentation

Dr. George Michaels from Instructional Development put together a wonderful pdf detailing how to create an effective PowerPoint presentation. Click here to view his Visual Design pdf.