Talking Science: Designing and Delivering Successful Oral Presentations

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Today, I attended an NIH seminar, held by Dr. Marler, that covered scientific oral presentations. I found this seminar quite helpful, especially since I will present in the next Journal Club cycle for my lab.

In the seminar, the scientific and professional objections of a presentation were discussed alongside the structure of a scientific presentation. The scientific objection includes the ability to demonstrate expertise on a topic, encourage collaboration opportunities, and effectively communicate scientific findings. The professional objections include career building, networking opportunities, and invitations to other talks.

The structure of a scientific presentation should resemble an hourglass. The beginning of the presentation should introduce the topic and necessary background. This should be the big picture and define the problem. Additionally, the beginning of all scientific presentations should include a hypothesis. The middle of the presentation should include the methodology and experimental rationale. Additionally, the middle should include the key results and findings. It is important that the most key results are includes since not all results can be included (mostly due to time restraints). The end of the scientific presentation will include a discussion of the results and future directions to take. Overall, the breadth of information should go from broad to specific to broad again.

In order to produce good slides, there are a few things to consider. First, the title slide should include a declarative statement, meaning that the first slide should reference the take-home message. Second, figures should be clean and large with a minimal amount of text. As Dr. Marler mentioned, there should be a high figure/text ratio. Lastly, labels should be understandable and clear to the viewer.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the NIH seminar and feel like I gained a better understanding of scientific presentations. When I present for Journal Club in September and November, I feel more confident and understand what I need to do to create a successful presentation.

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