Recently, I gave a tutorial on presentation techniques at the SNT institute in Luxembourg City. The material for this tutorial is organized in three themes: structure, story and support.
The three themes
I will detail each of these topics in a separate blog post later, but for now, I’ll detail the general idea of the tutorial.
The first important topic of my presentation course is finding the right structure for your content. Too often, people just mimic the order of the paper they are presenting in their talk, but the goal of a talk can be different from the goal of a paper. For a paper, this goal is clear: convince reviewers. For a talk, it is less clear and also less general. For a PhD student, the goal might be to get feedback on ideas, whereas for senior faculty, the goal might be to show of knowledge in order to get invited in committees. Having the right structure can greatly help you to convey your message.
Once you have the right structure in mind, you can use story elements to keep your audience engaged. Simple arcs of tension, like “when we first ran our algorithm, performance worsened by a factor 10, instead of improving like we expected” keeps the audience wondering. What happened? Why? Did it work out in the end? It also makes the talk easier to relate to, because we have all at one point had an experiment fail.
Finally, there are several things we can do to make a good talk great. Supporting the talk with nice but useful slides or by using…. pauses, for instance. Finally, we will work on body language to stress important words to help your audience stay with the story.
Stay tuned for detailed posts on these three topics.