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Presenting Your Research: Getting Started

Are you getting ready to give your first presentation on your research? This guide will help you refine your presentation style.

Getting ready to present your research

How to structure your presentation if you only have 5-15 minutes:

Distil your information down to the major highlights of your research. What does this look like?

  • Start with a quick "hook" story or a question to give big picture context. This can be a personal story or something in current news or events, etc. 
  • Take your three most important questions or points from your research - e.g., your research question, 1-2 sentences about how you conducted your research and what surprised or fascinated you about your results.
  • Don't bury the lede! Get quickly to your main point. 
  • Keep methods brief - most audiences want to know more about how your research applies to the everyday context. 
  • Conclude your talk with a brief overview and tie back to your original narrative or question. 

Tips for creating a rapid-fire presentation:

  • You can use a slide presentation (e.g., Powerpoint or Google Slide - if you know you'll have internet access) to supplement your talk, but keep it to 2-5 slides. Your slides should be minimalist. Use images or single words rather than narrative text or bullet points to illustrate your talk.
  • Write out your presentation word for word and then practice until you can say it without any notes and that you are within your assigned time limit. You only have to speak for a few minutes so memorize it! Once you have it memorized, it will be easier to make it sound natural.
  • Know your audience. You should stay away from jargon or if you need to use a specific term, make sure to explain it explicitly to your audience. 
  • Get feedback on your presentation from someone outside your discipline - you want your presentation to be understandable to anyone. 
  • Be careful with humor - it doesn't always go over well and you can risk alienating your audience. 
  • During your presentation, make sure that you: dress professionally, make eye contact with the audience (e.g., look right above the heads of the audience, they will think you are looking at them), pay attention to your body language (e.g., do not pace around the room), and try not read from your notes.
  • Anticipate the questions you may be asked during the Q&A. What do you do if you are asked a hard question? Admit that you don't know and either say that is something worth looking into or that if they pull you aside after you will find out for them. 
  • Practice your ending exactly. For example, "Thank you for coming today. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have." 
  • Remember, everyone wants to see you succeed - so be yourself! You know your research very well and this is your opportunity to share it with your audience. 

For more advice, visit Presentation Zen or 20 Tips for Better Conference Speaking

Anatomy of a good presentation

For a presentation of any length is important to clearly state your goal.

  • What do you want your presentation to say?
  • What should your audience know after your presentation?

As you compile the research for your presentation you should answer these two questions. Get rid of any information that does not answer these questions.

Just like any great paper a great presentation has a great structure. There are many different presentation structures you can follow guidelinescan, or create your own. For example:

This is one storytelling frame

  • Ask your audience a question that frames the speech.
  • Tell your audience how you’ll try and answer that question.
  • Start with a personal or investigatory story.
  • Drill down into the details of how the story applies to your presentation.
  • Offer some takeaways or next-actions for this.
  • Tell another personal or informational story.
  • Repeat the drill down points, the takeaways, etc.
  • Thread questions in earlier than the end.
  • Finish with a solid set of steps people can use to take action based on your presentation.

Variations on the theme:

  • Start with a question about a famous figure.
  • Explain that your audience is there to help you figure out if that figure embodies the subject matter you’re covering.
  • Ask them to consider the figure at every step in the presentation.
  • And present…

From a blog post from Chris Brogan entitled Make Better Presentations-The Anatomy of a Good Speech


Creative Commons License

Except where otherwise indicated, original content in this guide is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 license. You are free to share, adopt, or adapt the materials. We encourage broad adoption of these materials for teaching and other professional development purposes, and invite you to customize them for your own needs. 

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