Junji Morishita, Jyunji Shiraishi, Hiroshi Fujita, Shigehiko Katsuragawa, Akiyoshi Otsuka,
Yoshie Kodera, Yoshihiko Kawamura, Katsuhiko Yamada, Kunio Doi
Oral presentations at academic meetings are one of the biggest events for the society just like publishing papers. It’s no exaggeration to say that the level of the academic society is a reflection of presentation contents and how well they are presented. So, “Please put forth efforts to make a good presentation!”
Before making an academic presentation, you need to spend considerable time to elaborate on the study, collect data, and analyze the results. In the actual presentation, you will also need to have the audience understand the important outcomes within a limited time. During the presentation, please keep in mind that only you and the people who were involved in your research fully understand the contents. Furthermore, not all of the audience members are in the same field as you. In other words, most of the audience has very little idea of what the subject of your presentation is, or what your exact findings are. The important thing is to make your presentation easy to understand and convincing in the time given. In order to make your points clear to the audience, you need to be careful in various aspects.
For example, you might occasionally come across some researchers who try to show every detail of their research results in their presentations, but this is not a favorable approach. Please note that you should stay focused on the important points using concise slides. In most cases, detailed data can be shown when you write papers on the subject. If you give a presentation using the appropriate and effective ways, you should have a much better chance of having active discussions and receiving insightful comments after the presentation.
Unfortunately, not all presentations are designed to be easily understood, and not all slides are made easy to follow. Being well prepared for your presentation sufficiently, including rehearsing, makes it easier for you to write papers later on as well. So, we sited a guideline below for a good academic presentation.
A. Try to make your presentation simple and convincing.
For a convincing presentation:
(1) Clarify “the aim of your study” and “what you did”
(2) Include just the main points in your slides
(3) Rehearse sufficiently
(4) Do not read from your manuscript
(5) Use your laser pointer precisely
(6) Avoid abbreviations
(1) Clarify “the aim of your study” and “what you did”:
Please keep in mind that many audience members don’t know what your study is about until you present it to them. So, it is essential to “clarify the aim of your study” in order to make your presentation easier to understand. More importantly, you need to state “what you did” and “what you revealed” in a concrete manner. You can also attract an audiences’ curiosity by telling how valuable your research is and emphasizing the uniqueness of it.
(2) Include just the main points in your slides:
You should prepare concise slides which are easy to follow. (Please see below for details.)
(3) Rehearse sufficiently:
You should always spend plenty of time rehearsing in order to present your research contents accurately within a limited time. Especially if you have little experience, you need to rehearse over and over again. At the time of rehearsal, you should include not only co-researchers but also people who were not directly involved in the study as audience members. You then will have a better idea on how easily understandable your presentation is.
If you can’t find any participants for your rehearsals, you can record yourself and listen to your own presentation objectively. Even without an audience, practice through vocalizing is extremely helpful. In fact, experienced and outstanding researchers often practice vocally in the slide center.
(4) Do not read from your manuscript:
Convincing presentations come from well-rehearsed speeches, not just a reading of a manuscript. Oral presentations provide you with an opportunity to communicate with audiences. If you include the key points of your presentation in your slides, you can avoid missing important things to tell the audience. You should also speak slowly and clearly.
We suggest you try to speak without a manuscript at the next opportunity. Once you gain enough experience, you will be equipped to make great speeches without a manuscript.
(5) Be precise with your laser pointer:
You should use your laser pointer precisely when it’s necessary, and turn it off when it is not in use. Please remember that the flickering of a laser pointer is very distracting to the audience.
(6) Avoid abbreviations:
Even if you use abbreviations for new techniques or products in your slides, you should say their proper names when you use the words for the first time in your speech, and then inform the audience that you will use abbreviations during your speech. Also, please note that excess use of abbreviation is frustrating for the audience.
B. Prepare simple and effective slides.
1. Notes for slides with text:
(1) Keep to the important points (don’t overload a slide with text)
(2) Contrast text and background
(3) Use color for emphasis only
2. Notes for slides when using figures:
(1) One figure per slide
(2) Describe the meaning of vertical and horizontal axis
(3) Enclose all four sides of a graph and add a scale
(4) Use arrows to indicate legends
(5) Be careful about the color of graphs
(6) Avoid complex tables
1. Notes for slides with text
(1) Keep to the important points (don’t overload a slide with text):
The length of a slide shown to the audience is a few tens of seconds at the most. Accordingly, each slide should contain just the main points. You should avoid putting too much information in small text by all means. Particularly, writing out the summary or conclusion is completely unnecessary. Please remember that some audience members are looking at your slides from far away.
As a rough indication, one slide should have up to eight lines with approximately twenty characters per line. The font size should be over 28 and the writing should be in bold (too thick may be just the right thickness). In order to check if the font size is appropriate, print out your slides and try to read the contents with your hand stretched out. If you can’t make out what is written on them, it means the font size is too small.
(2) Contrast text and background:
Use high contrasting colors for the background and text. For example, white or yellow text on a dark blue background is a high contrasting color arrangement.
(3) Use color for emphasis only:
When you use too much color in your slides, it makes it hard for the audience to process and can be very unpleasant. The color scheme should be kept simple and the use of color should be just for emphasis. An example of a bad color scheme is dark red or green text on a dark background. You should also pay attention to background designs, because they might ruin your slides depending on their color.
2. Notes for slides with figures
(1) One figure per slide:
You should put one figure as big as possible in one slide. Please do not layout multiple figures.
(2) Describe the meaning of vertical and horizontal axis:
You should describe what the vertical and horizontal axis indicate in your presentation. This way, the audience can comprehend a graph’s meaning more easily.
(3) Make each figure clear:
In a slide with a graph, you should enclose all four sides and put scales on the axis. This makes it easy for the audience to process the data.
(4) Use arrows to indicate legends:
For graphs with multiple curved lines such as plots, you should place arrows with simple descriptions to show what each line means.
(5) Be careful about the color of graphs:
In graphs that contain many curved lines, it is effective to make a distinction between lines by using different colors or styles, such as solid or dotted lines. However, just like slides with text, you should always use colors that contrast the background. If the background is white, you should never select a light color such as yellow for the lines. Also, lines need to be adequately thick. You should be especially careful about the lines from scanned images, because they often turn out to be too thin.
(6) Avoid complex tables:
If you need to use a complex table, you should divide it into multiple simple slides, or consider modifying it into a graph as much as possible. You should consider which data is essential to put in your slides, and never put too much text or numbers in one slide.
C. Make good use of the time you have
Make good use of the time you have
(1) No need to say your name or what department you are in
(2) No need to give detailed information of contents with low significance
(3) Spend a moderate amount of time revising your draft for the proceedings
(1) No need to say your name or what department you are in:
You don’t need to mention your name or what department you work for at the beginning of your presentation. They are written in the program, proceedings, and your slides. The chairman will also give your introduction to the audience right before your presentation starts.
(2) No need to give detailed information of contents with low significance:
You should omit less important contents if you run out of time at rehearsals. For example, you can just show the equipment used unless it is the key point of your study.
(3) Spend a moderate amount of time revising your draft for the proceedings:
Please avoid spending too much time on revising your draft for the proceedings. Even if there are some minor errors that need corrections, the audience’s focus will be on your presentation that is about to start.
D. Closing remark
It might seem like there are so many things to consider for making a good academic presentation, but the easiest way to improve your skills is through a lot of practice. Another good way for improvement is by imitating presentation styles of people whose presentations are easy to understand, including the use of color in the slides. The ultimate goal of academic presentations is to have as much of the audience as possible understand your research. We hope you will acquire these techniques to make memorable and high-impact presentations.
Lastly, we suggest giving a big round of applause to good speakers when you are in the audience. As every researcher spends considerable time preparing for their presentations, we believe applause is the least we can do to express our appreciation for their efforts. Positive reactions from the audience give speakers great satisfaction and serve as encouragement for their next academic presentation. So, please be the first one clapping.