Several AoBBlog.com posts have discussed presentations, because both teaching and conference talks are such an important part of what many botanists are doing – telling people about our research. Annals of Botany sponsors several conferences a year, our review and briefing articles are all freely downloadable, and all images from every paper can be directly downloaded into Powerpoint (a surprisingly underused feature of the online platform, Highwire Press, which we share with other Journals such as Plant Cell and Journal of Experimental Botany – display the full text of a paper in html format, and then click on the download option underneath every image).
If you look at discussions of presentations on the web though, you will find many discussions about making an arresting presentation – lots of images and action. However, a lot of ‘presentation’ discussion seems to forget that, for most scientific meetings, the majority of the audience will not have English as a first language.
Another point is that the best science need not be the best-presented science.
It is also important for people to be able to make good notes. This leads easily to a conflict – probably the best notes come from the speaker’s notes being transferred to the audience’s notes, but unfortunately this comes with the widespread subclause ‘without going through the minds of either’. Notetaking skills – thinking about and writing down the consequences and action you will take from the presentation – helps. Everyone needs to remember that at a large conference, it is possible to attend approaching 100 talks – as many lectures as are included in some undergraduate courses in a year!
One important feature of presentations is Contact details – I’m amazed how few put their contacts or name on both their first and last slide. It is easy to be sorting out your notes, trying to get your netbook on charge, looking for the mint or whatever during the first slide.
Knowing your audience is important, but often very tricky, and the audience might be very different from that the organizers hope for. So there is a real art in making a presentation accessible to people at different levels.