Basic outline for a short talk
The general guideline is no more than one slide per minute of your talk. For example, if you have a 10 minute presentation, don't have more than 10 slides, though you might spend four minutes on one slide and only a few seconds on another.
Background (1 slide): What is the question? Why is it important? What do we know already from previous work? What’s the added value of the present study?
Methods (1 slide): Study design, methodology including data sources and analysis.
Results (2 slides): Select just a few of the main study findings.
Discussion (1 slide): Limitations of the study. Interpretation of study findings, including implications for research and policy.
Conclusion (1 slide): Summarize the main question and what your study found. Give acknowledgements as necessary.
The general guideline is no more than one slide per minute of your talk.
Most important tips
Prepare an outline, identifying what aspect of your research you will focus on and what your key messages will be.
When preparing the slides, use images as much as possible and limit the use of text.
Make sure to put yourself in the audience's perspective when creating your slides and talking points.
Practice the presentation many times.
Detailed tips for brief oral presentations (created by Montana INBRE)
Tell a simple story: A character facing a challenge that’s important told by someone who cares
• Stories are neurological shortcuts that build rapport and create instant understanding
• Characters don’t have to be human (Dolly the cloned sheep) but should be relatable
• Build in tension by strategically using the words like “but,” “although,” “little did I expect …”
• If using PowerPoint, use simple, powerful images… especially those proven to release oxytocin (Hint: Cute babies, fluffy kittens)
• Make the story personal; Use names, places, traits that your audience can relate to; if the audience can see themselves in your story, they will not only pay attention but will also care
• Display (and help the audience to encounter) honest, contagious emotions related to your topic – wonder, optimism, anger, surprise, hope, etc.; These are shortcuts to the audience caring
• Give clues or tell outright why the story affects issues people care about emotionally
Know and Respect your Audience
• It is your responsibility that your audience understands you
• Jargon does not aid communication – avoid it; instead, speak professionally, but conversationally; think back to before you started studying/researching your topic – would that previous version of you understand what you’re talking about now?
• If you must introduce a jargon-y word, immediately translate it into something the average person will understand; (see Nadine Burke’s 2014 TedMed Talk for great examples)
• Compare/contrast what the audience’s life/experience is right now and what life could be like if they went through what the characters in your story are going through; this makes your story instantly relatable and creates opportunities for fun thought experiments and counterfactuals
• You should talk like you talk, not talk like you write; this is why it’s sometimes better to simply outline your talks and never produce a full written script
• Make sure that your language is conversational in tone, never robotic or over-animated
• Find common ground with your audience in order to connect; use relevant analogies, reference points, cultural inflection points, local knowledge, etc. to ensure the audience “gets it”
Code Information Visually
• Written words often contain lower-resolution information than an image; human brains
process images 15x faster than written words; you only have five minutes to get your
point across. So…
• DO NOT under any circumstances throw up a bunch of words on the screen or build a power point with bullet points; this is not only low-resolution content, but it also DISTRACTS your audience by asking them to read when they should be listening to YOU
• If you decide to use PowerPoint slides, use three slides max (one is best), mostly compelling images that reinforce your story’s main point; keep it to ONE BIG IDEA PER SLIDE
• If using slides, avoid looking at or referencing them directly; there is power in keeping your attention focused on the audience and on telling your story; a slide is a backdrop that aids your storytelling; your slide deck is NOT your presentation; YOU are the presentation
• If particular string of words is super important, consider saying them twice rather than writing them on a slide
Other Practical Tips
Before the event, practice your talk and time yourself to get a sense of how long
five minutes really feels to you; keep practicing out loud until you are landing the
plane in the right spot every time
• When you take the stage, stand confidently and wait for the audience to be quiet before beginning speaking; There will be a moment when you can hear a pin drop; that’s when everyone’s attention is focused where it should be
• Jump right into telling your story; you only have five minutes, so just start telling your story right away; It will be very tempting to reintroduce yourself, restate your name, thank the person who introduced you, rehash your research title, or offer up an overview of your topic at the beginning; These are almost always false starts; Just jump in and start telling your story with something like:
- “One time I …”
- “I used to think …”
- “Let me ask you a question …”
- “It wasn’t always clear how X, but now …”
- “Who here remembers …?”
• Do not rush through or try to talk too fast; do not bombard people with the same amount of information that you would give in a 10 or 15 minute talk; instead, simplify and distill your story content so you can still talk at a normal pace and get your main points across
• During your talk, try not talking to the whole “audience,” but instead pick out individual people or small seating sections and talk to them as if having an intimate conversation; stay with that person for a few moments and then move on to someone else, distributing your direct attention across the room more or less evenly
• DO thank your mentors and agencies that funded you, but don’t leave it to the end. Instead, very early in your story, quickly get all of your funding acknowledgements and thank-yous out of the way by weaving them into your story; leaving acknowledgements for the end can disrupt the crescendo of your story, which matters because …
• You want to finish your story in such a way that the audience is prompted and compelled to applaud; if you finish a strong story and then abruptly jump into your acknowledgements, it can ruin the moment you’ve worked so hard to create AND it makes the audience feel awkward for not knowing when to applaud (watch the last minute of Nadine Burke’s 2014 TedMed talk to see how it’s done)
• A crisp and genuine “thank you” or “thank you very much” when your story is over is all that’s needed to conclude and prompt the audience to applaud (again, watch the last minute of Nadine Burke’s 2014 TedMed talk to see how it’s done)