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Improving Academic Presentation Style

I give a lot of talks, and I've been trying to improve my presentation style, but I'm not sure how to do it in the context of my field. I am in a fairly quantitative science. I have to give presentations where I present results; I am 'selling' the result to the audience, but not in the same way, I think, that one would sell a product, or an idea, or a concept. I'm attempting to convince them that it's right, and that I was diligent in pursuing the result.

One common technique is to simply overwhelm the audience with lots of facts and charts and bullet points. Obviously this is a bad idea -- but on the other hand, if you don't give enough 'serious-looking' plots, you run the risk of being dismissed by members of the audience.

So how do I strike a balance? How do I keep my presentations in the manner of a good narrative, with appropriate display methods, when constrained by an audience that has a certain expectation of a larger number of quantitative figures and numbers?

davep60's picture

Lilnear with links

After 35 years working in the aerospace industry I finally learned how to get through persuasive presentations.

If you are talking to your engineering peers to solve an engineering problem, use as much detail, graphs, etc as you can gather. There is nothing like real data to convince peers.

If you are talking to the engineering managers (akin to your customers?), present the problem and conclusion with succinct data from the peer data. If they ask question on the succinct data, link to the real data.

We had one real scary but good senior level technical manager who's operational model was to scratch at the presenter as hard as possible until blood is drawn. If they cannot explain their conclusions clearly and succinctly, he threw them out of the room until they had the answer. Some were too stricken to ever return.

If your audience does not ask penetrating questions, I would question whether the audience knew what they were asking for. The more penetrating questions they ask, the better for you.




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