“We are happy to inform you that your presentation has been selected for our conference…” Congratulations, you have passed the first hurdle!

In science it is appreciated to present and discuss results of your research at conferences. But how do you prepare for your presentation and which way do you present your material? What added value do you bring to your audience? What do people expect from your presentation?

You are passionate about your subject. You would like to present this to an audience without prior technical knowledge. Which language style do you choose so that your audience can follow you and at the same time feel well entertained?


Your PechaKucha audience

Example: The “International Year of Soil” of the United Nations 2015. It is my occasion to present a public PechaKucha speech entitled “Soil – the dirt under your feet”. The PechaKucha (pronounced: “petschaktscha”, Japanese for “chit-chat”) shows 20 pictures for exactly 20 seconds each. Due to the short visibility of the individual slides, they cannot be overloaded with text. In fact, the spotlight is on the visual presentation. If used wisely, the pictures and graphics underline the speakers’ presentation.

At this point, I might underpin my distinct expertise by adding many technical terms. Instead, I simplify words in order to ensure that the presentation is easily understood and as entertaining as possible. The only technical term I use is “Pseudogley”. In Germany, the Pseudogley was nominated “Soil of the Year” in 2015 by the board of curators of the same name.

In the presentation I am sharing: “There are soils which are moistened by groundwater from below, they are called ‘Gley’ in our terminology. But there are also soils that only pretend to be wetted by groundwater. In fact, however, they are irrigated from above by rain. These are the so-called Pseudogley” – which I show on the slide (here: in German).

20 seconds are sufficient for a brief, simple explanation. Of course, I have considerably shortened technical terms at this point. It is appropriate for the occasion. In this way, the entire presentation is drawn up: Easy to understand, slides with pictures and very little text, direct connection to the audience, added value for the audience. The audiences’ feedback is extremely positive. After one year, some participants can vividly reproduce excerpts of my presentation.


Your science audience

Change of scenery: Biannual conference of the German Soil Science Society 2015 in Munich. In my 20-minute presentation, I want to raise awareness among professionals about how we can raise people’s awareness concerning the important basis of life “soil”. On this occasion I also present some slides from my PechaKucha presentation with an identical terminology.

This time, however, the audience reacts very reserved and distanced. They criticize it because the content was presented too simply. For example, the “pedogenesis of the pseudogley must be explained in a considerably more differentiated way”. And we are heading right into the middle of a profound technical discussion…

The perception is clear: what succeeds with one audience does not guarantee success with another. At a professional conference you adjust your terminology by using appropriate technical terms. This way you can prove your sound specialist knowledge, which is expected for most participants. Above all, your choice of words immediately shows whether you understand your audience and can adapt your presentation and thus your language style to that of the audience.


Emotions amplify your content

Professional speakers paint pictures with words alone – they stick in the memory of the audience. Of course, photos and images that can be captured quickly are ideal for science presentations. You can embed them in your narrative, for example, with a personalized story or with before-and-after photos.

Content quality is of course an important, but not the only key criterion for a successful presentation. Especially in German-speaking countries, science lectures are characterized by a high level of objectivity. At the same time you could add emotions to your statements.

By using a greater vocal diversity and lively body language, you emphasize your statements and show that you particularly identify with your topic. This also helps to communicate personal enthusiasm.


Finally, two useful tips for preparation

For a successful presentation, prepare yourself thoroughly. Although self-evident, this is all too often ignored. You should ideally fine-tune your presentation with a few sample presentations.

  1. Use your smartphone! With the integrated dictation device you can record and rehearse your speech. Listen to your speech and reflect on how alive it sounds to you. Repeat this until you are satisfied.
  2. Test your presentation with your friends or colleagues and ask for honest and critical feedback. Does your presentation stimulate reflection? In the best case you can create new knowledge with your speech.

This post is also available in: German

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