A presentation of a scientific paper should be a summary account of the study and should include only the data that support the key findings and the conclusions. Below are a set of guidelines and tips designed to help you prepare your oral presentation:
Part 1: General Tips
- Begin the presentation by stating what kind of study you have done and what key points you are going to demonstrate.
- Tell the audience what you are going to present, present the data, and then give your interpretation, conclusions, and implications.
- Note that in a 10-minute presentation, you can only give a summary of a study. There will be no time to explain everything you did or everything you found out during the study.
- Focus on the data that supports your main findings and conclusions.
Part 2: Tips for Preparing Slides:
- Slides should contain only important and useful data and text.
- Leave out all unnecessary lines, words, data points, or extraneous material.
- Slides should be horizontal rather than vertical format.
- Text slides should use no more than six bulleted text items, and no more than eight lines of text.
- It is best not to use three-dimensional slides.
- Each slide should present a single concept: Use keywords, do not use sentences.
- Do not read from your slides when presenting.
- Follow the order of text
- Keep the verb form consistent
- Keep the same style of bullet at each level of bullet
- Keep capitalization consistent
- Use one of the following types: Sans serif bold, Arial, Humanist, Optima, and Swiss (Helvetica) are recommended typefaces. Avoid Times New Roman, Courier, Complex, and Italic typefaces.
- Highlight titles with larger size and bold text. Black-on-clear slides:
- Black on clear/white slides have a good contrast that can be easily read in a lit room.
- Color slides: Most presenters’ slides are now in color, a recommended color scheme is a dark blue background with white or yellow text.
Note that distracting slides have too much:
- Use of symbols.
- Slick packaging.
Effective slides are:
Final comment: If your audience remembers more about the composition and appearance of your slides than your message, you’ve failed!
Part 3: Tips for Preparing Your Presentation:
- Keep in mind that you will be communicating the key findings and importance of your study to a diverse audience.
- Focus on presenting your message clearly to everyone in the audience, rather than on impressing them with the complexity and enormity of your investigation.
- Focus on a few key issues and give supporting data for them, rather than presenting many points superficially.
- Use clear, plain, direct language in your text.
- Explain epidemiologic associations clearly:
- Always present the case definitions used
- Use sentences that describe the people studied, rather than the risk factor in question
- Since most epidemiological studies are observational studies (not clinical trials) it is appropriate to express findings in terms of proportions (percentages of cases and controls with a given factor) and the likelihood that the observed findings occurred by chance (i.e., p-value)
- When presenting cohort data, use rates and relative risks with confidence intervals. When presenting case-control data, use odds ratios and confidence intervals
- Use incidence vs. prevalence correctly Orient the audience to each slide that presents a figure. Do this by explaining to the audience what is represented by the x-axis, y-axis, and each series in the figure. Do not project a slide with a figure on the screen and comment, without looking up and using a pointer. A little humor is acceptable if you have a solid presentation.
Part 4: Tips for Giving an Effective Presentation
- Practice! Practice! Practice!
- Do not begin your presentation at the symposium until you are ready.
- Speak slowly and project your voice.
- Check that the correct slide is projecting.
- Make the most of the question-and-answer period.
- Take the time to make sure you understand the question. It is very common for a presenter to find it hard to understand or remember the question asked especially if the questioner asks a long question or series of questions.
- Feel free to ask the questioner for clarification or to repeat the question.
- Pause for a while to think out your answer.
- Take a deep breath and gather your thoughts. What may seem like a panic-stricken eternity to you will merely seem like a thoughtful pause to your audience
- Keep in mind that you know more about your own investigation than the audience.
- Give short, direct answers.
- Sometimes you can anticipate some questions and rehearse answers ahead of time.
- Consider all questions to be queries for information and treat them that way even if they may sound hostile to you. Avoid projecting a defensive attitude.
- Don’t feel that you have to give an answer when you can’t or there isn’t one. If you are well prepared and confident, you can answer “I don’t know” comfortably.