The very idea of standing up and giving an oral presentation at a conference gives even the most confident of us butterflies. Additionally, I don’t know many scientists who find the thought of spending hours working on a powerpoint presentation exactly thrilling.
However, there are many benefits to presenting your work at a conference. First of all, an invitation to present your research at a conference is a great achievement and a fantastic asset for your CV/resume. It also increases your chances of securing an external travel grant to cover your travel costs, which also looks good on your CV.
Here are some tips on how to deliver a great conference presentation:
- Preparation. Spend plenty of time preparing your presentation. Get at least one colleague to proof-read and check for mistakes. Keep your presentation slides relatively simple and don’t over clutter with text.
- Practice Practice Practice. Write out what you want to say in your own handwriting. My PhD supervisor suggested this before a presentation. You will memorize your notes much quicker from handwritten as opposed to typed notes. Practice your presentation with colleagues and even friends and or family not involved in science. If your workplace has a lecture theatre or seminar room with a lectern, practice there at least once, as it will help make you comfortable presenting in a formal setting.
- Timing. When you practice your talk, work out your timing make sure you fall comfortably within the time limit. Trying to squeeze a 15 minute presentation into 10 minutes may prevent you from communicating all your key data.
- Know your audience. Check out the conference website and be aware of who may be at your talk or come up to your poster. I was asked questions at both oral and poster presentations by an expert in my research field who was eventually my external examiner for my viva. If you are working in translational or clinical research you will still be expected to know details regarding patient cohorts, etc., even if you are not a medical professional.
- Be available. At breaks, look enthusiastic, be friendly and talk to people about your presentation. Presenting at conferences is a great way to network and gain invaluable feedback regarding your work. Furthermore, both oral and poster presentations are an excellent way to prepare for your PhD viva (or thesis defense).
- Appearance. Conferences usually have a dress code of ‘smart casual’. This does not include, however, scruffy jeans and sneakers. Put some effort into your clothes and appearance; it will give you a confidence boost and help you deliver a professional presentation.
What are your tips for delivering a great conference presentation?