Conference season is coming soon and you are might be wondering whether to apply for one. When I started my PhD, my supervisor told me that one of the criteria to have a successful PhD is the presentation of your work at academic conferences. To be more precise, what you should need is attendance at three conferences and you must have done at least an oral presentation.
When it comes to oral presentation, everyone gets super scared. Talking for the first time to a competent and specific audience might be quite intimidating. Also, lack of experience in presenting your work outside the familiar environment of your research group can be seen as a huge challenge to overcome.
I received loads of training and attended loads of early-career, student-led conferences and I am writing this article to share a few tips with you.
The major problem that I notice in presentations delivered by early-stage researchers is that they go straight to their work. WRONG!!! Whatever your field of research is, someone else worked or is currently working on the same topic. A GOOD INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND is key to a successful presentation. If the topic is particularly vast, reference the most important pieces of work in the field. Why is it important to have a good introduction? Because you need to state what’s the problem you are trying to address, what’s the gap in the literature you are trying to bridge. Why is your research is novel and original compared to the rest? A good introduction will definitely help in answering all these questions.
Put your research into context
Second important pieces of advice: WHY WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS IMPORTANT? Why should be people bothered listening to you? Who benefits from your research rather than you and your research group? Are you trying to discover new drugs? Are you trying to find alternative ways of producing energy? Are you trying to understand people’s behaviour or habits? Whatever the drive of your research is YOU NEED TO STATE IT IN YOUR PRESENTATION
Although conferences are quite specific and you usually apply for conferences related to your field, DON’T ASSUME THAT PEOPLE KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. Understand your audience. If you are working on a specific and narrow topic, attendees might have little understanding of some concepts. Make sure that your talk is as clear as possible.
Understand your audience
This is my secret tip which I learned from senior members of the lab when I was in Italy. Predict questions and put extra slides at the end that allows you to answer the questions. During your rehearsal, some of this questions might come up from your coworkers. This will be very appreciated as your audience will understand how much you care to make a good impression.
Finally, I believe I have to mention a few tips to make the presentation look good on screen. So, keep it clear and use a plain background. Don’t put too much text in your presentation, use diagrams, graphs, charts instead. You want to make sure that people listen to you and don’t read your slides. YOU ARE the most important part of the talk, not your powerpoint presentation. Add a title to every slide so that people know what you are talking about and always reference prior work.
Make sure that slides follow your flow of thoughts.
If I missed something, please do make a comment below and share with us your secrets of an outstanding presentation.