IN THE BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
AN ORAL PRESENTATION
Because your audience only
gets one chance to hear your presentation, it must be well-organized (go
to Preparing an Oral Presentation)
and delivered smoothly and clearly.
Write out the talk or an outline of it.
Include transition sentences that will lead you smoothly
from one slide to the next.
Practice your talk until it is smooth and you
no longer require your notes.
Time yourself and be sure that you won't go beyond the
allotted time limit.
Ideally you should need no notes during the actual presentation,
but having them as a security blanket is OK.
You will undoubtedly be nervous when you present (perhaps
even traumatized!). To help alleviate this normal feeling of anxiety, you
must be comfortable with the presentation itself. Once you have the talk
"memorized" and you no longer need your notes, continue to practice so
that it becomes second nature to you. Try presenting the talk to yourself
in the shower, before you fall asleep at night, while driving/walking/biking
to school, etc. If you know that you know your talk, there will be much
less for you to be anxious about.
Dress appropriately for the situation.
A general rule of thumb is to dress as you would for an important job interview.
Have the first few sentences of the talk memorized.
This should get you beyond the fear point and into the automatic mode.
If you have notes to help you, do not read
them verbatim. If that was the point of your talk, you could just hand
out your notes and go home.
Don't rush through the talk; focus hard on
talking slowly since the tendency is to talk quickly.
Make eye contact with your audience and pronounce
your words so that you can be understood.
Speak to the back of the room to ensure that
you can be heard.
Don't speak in a monotone. If you sound bored
with your own talk, your audience most certainly will be.
Take time to describe the axes of graphs or
the symbols in a cartoon diagram: remember that your audience needs time
to digest the information.
Cite original citations during your talk. For
example, instead of saying, "They studied this problem...", say, "Smith
and Peters studied this problem in 1991...".
Highlight the information you are presenting
by pointing to the relevant portions of the figures or tables by using
whatever means are available to you: a laser pointer, stick, the mouse
arrow on the computer, your hand, etc.
If you're using an overhead projector, point
at the screen rather than the transparency. The projector will magnify
even the slightest tremble of your hand and make you appear even more nervous
than you are.
Be sure that your body is not in the way of
the visual aids that your audience is trying to see!
Prepare to end the talk. Use a phrase such
as "In conclusion..." or "The final point I'd like to make is..." so that
the audience realizes the end is near.
When you're done, don't just laugh nervously
and say, "That's all that I have." Have an ending prepared such
as, "Thank you for your attention. Does anyone have any questions?"
Depending upon the type of presentation you
are giving, it may be reasonable to acknowledge people who helped you in
some way. For example, for a research talk you may thank your research
advisor and/or someone who let you borrow some equipment to do your work.
For a seminar you might thank your faculty advisor who helped you find
references and organize the talk.
Don't feel obliged to answer a question that
you do not understand. Politely ask the person to clarify the question
until you know what the person is asking. (I'm not sure that I understand
your question. Could you restate it please?"
To keep the rest of the audience involved,
it's good to restate the question as you understand it before beginning
to answer. In addition, answer to the entire audience, not just to
the person who asked the question.
Even experts don't have all of the answers.
If you don't know the answer to a question, you have two options. 1) Simply
acknowledge that importance of the question (if it is) but that you don't
know the answer. 2) Speculate as to a possible answer but be clear to the
audience that you are speculating and that this may not be the "real" answer.
to a Talk
It is professional courtesy to attend all
other presentations within a session, even at scientific meetings. Showing
up for your talk and then leaving when you are done is rude!
Listen closely to the talk. If you cannot
follow the content very well, continue to try and then pay special attention
to the conclusions so that you can at least take away something from the
It is flattering as a speaker to have audience
members ask questions about the talk. Show your interest by formulating
at least one question for the speaker and ask it during the question and
answer session following the presentation.
Copyright © 2001,
the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the Board of Regents of the University