8 Tips for Creating an Effective Scientific Presentation

Someone presenting to an audience

Presentations are nerve-wracking for many, but a perfectly composed slide deck can make the process much easier. Clearly and impactfully presenting your findings to the right audience at the right conference can improve communication of your science, enhance your career prospects, and attract potential collaborators. Follow our handy guide to creating clear and concise slides to help you to come across as the confident, organized scientist you are!

1. Make a Clear Outline

First, take the time to outline what you want to say before creating your slide deck. Make your outline using whichever medium feels most comfortable for you: create an online document, use a word processor, or sketch it out on paper.

When making your outline, consider:

  • The purpose of your presentation (to entertain, inspire, educate, inform?)
  • The specific audience (grad students, experienced researchers, funding bodies?)
  • The structure (usually introduction, results, and conclusion, but yours may differ)
  • How you will grab your audience’s attention on the opening slide
  • How you will maintain the audience’s attention
  • Where you want to show photos or videos
  • Whether you want to include a follow-up action or key message

2. Consider Time Limits

  • If you only have a 10-minute conference presentation spot, make sure you aren’t making more slides than you’ll have time to present.
  • Generally, you’ll want to aim for just under a slide per minute; a 10-minute presentation will comprise 10-15 slides.

3. Use a Consistent Layout

  • Make sure font size, color scheme, and image placement are consistent throughout your presentation.

4. Use Engaging Visuals

  • Ensure that your visuals are appropriate for presenting to a large group of people in an auditorium or spacious room.
  • Label and explain any visuals that you use.
  • Consider making handouts for complicated charts, graphs, or pictures.
  • Eliminate superfluous detail from scientific figures.
  • If using videos, make sure that they are not too long in relation to the overall length of your presentation.

5. Avoid Clutter

  • Slides should be simple and easy to understand; limit the amount of text by only highlighting key points rather than using entire paragraphs of text.
  • Use bullet points or short phrases to convey information.
  • Remember that your audience should be able to read and understand a visual in five seconds or less.
  • Use clear, easy-to-read fonts, with a minimum of 20 - 22 pt. font.

6. Stick to the Point

  • Avoid getting sidetracked by irrelevant information.
  • Stay focused on the main message of your presentation by looking back at your outline when creating slides.

7. Consider Accessibility

  • Make sure your slides are accessible to all attendees, including those with visual or hearing impairments.
  • Consider using alt-text for images and proving transcripts for any video or audio content.

8. Think About Using an Event-Specific Slide Template

  • Many conferences provide slide templates that you can use to create your own presentation.
  • The templates often include the conference logo and a consistent color scheme, which may help to make your presentation more cohesive.

These tips will help you to engage your audience and convey your message clearly and effectively at your next scientific conference or event. And remember, preparation is the key to success!

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