of Communication and Information, Rutgers University, USA
*Corresponding author: Judith
Gelernter, Department of Communication
and Information, Rutgers University, USA
March 2017; Accepted Date: 23 March
2017; Published Date: 05 April 2017
Many researchers pay
little attention to their audience, and so some in audience respond during the
presentation by turning their attention to their laptops. One measure of that
success is whether the audience will remember the talk’s main points. This article suggests ways to prepare a talk
and slides for a research presentation that will be remembered.
How to Prepare Slides that are Effective
Organization of the Talk
The presentation should
start with background on the research problem and why the problem is
interesting or important. The talk
should include what others have done to solve the problem, and how the speaker’s
contribution differs. Consider starting with an “elevator speech.” This consists of the most important ideas
that the researcher would want someone to remember if there were only the
duration of an elevator ride to convey those ideas. Preparation will consist not of condensing
the paper for speech, but rather to extract a few key ideas and explain their
Try to make the
presentation interesting enough that people will want to pay attention. To do this, explain why the main ideas or
findings are relevant to anyone.
Another way to draw in the audience is to choose language that is less
technical. This is especially true in titling the talk, when a more
understandable title might fill more seats at the outset. When
technical language is necessary, key terms should be defined so that everyone
is “on the same page” with the speaker, and accepts the speaker’s understanding
of the term.
Leave Some Details for Reading
Describe the method in
broad strokes and refer those who want more to examine the underlying paper. A
conference talk will not substitute for examining a paper’s logical complexity
or mathematics in that aural comprehension for detail is less sharp than when
people read for themselves. This is especially true in international
conferences where the first language of some in the audience will not be
Length of Presentation.
Plan to use
only the time it takes to satisfy the audience need to understand the main
ideas. The audience will count it favorably if the talk concludes early. The
talk will be considered well planned if the speaker includes everything that he
intended at a comfortable pace, allowing time at the end for audience
Many use PowerPoint or
a similar software to create the slides that are displayed during the talk. These
slides are the slide show because they illustrate what is spoken. So the slides
themselves should be sparing of words.
Slides are non-essential for public speaking to be effective. Think of a
minister who addresses his congregants, or a politician speaking to his
In order to calculate the maximum number of slides for the allotted talk
that it will take at least two minutes to deliver each slide. Consider using
fewer slides, to give the audience more time to absorb each slide individually.
Besides, moving from slide to slide can be mind-numbing for the audience. It is
acceptable to include an extra slide to help prove a point, or even to add
humor. Keeping your audience in a good humor will lead them to enjoy the talk
What Deserves a Slide?
Slides should contain
graphics or results that illustrate major points in the talk. If a speaker
would take time to write words on a blackboard during the talk, the words are
important, but if not, creating that slide might be unnecessary. Given this rubric, it is clear that slides
such as “Any questions?” or “Thank you” should be omitted. A speaker can write
these as notes just for himself so he will not forget to ask whether there are
questions or to thank the audience.
Background color and
font typeface should be the same on all slides. It is advisable to choose a
font size no smaller than 20 points so that those in the back of the room can
read clearly. Surprisingly, it is harder to read words all in capitals, so use
both upper and lower case. Alternate slide layout in the sequence if possible,
so that, for instance, a comparison side-by-side slide is followed by an image
or graph that uses most of the slide area.
Every marking on the
slide that does not support your argument is a potential distraction, so it is
preferable not to adopt a logo running across the slide bottom, or to choose a
slide template with decorative swirl or graphic across the slide border. Lists
within slides can be shown as words stacked vertically without bullet
dots. It is not advisable to use bullets
because they draw the eye toward themselves and away from the text.
Words per Each Individual Slide
The title is each
slide’s most valuable real estate, so choose a phrase or sentence for the slide
image rather than a heading that is general. See the research by Michael Alley
on presentations to learn more about words per slide. If the slide deck for a
research talk has enough text to be completely comprehensible in and of itself,
audience members will read at times instead of listen to the speaker.
Beginning and Ending Slides
At the beginning of the
talk, the speaker should say what he is going to talk about. A generic overview
slide is unnecessary (Figure 1). A slide that
lists the main point to be covered in each section of the talk, and that is
displayed before each section with the next point in boldface, is acceptable
because it indicates topic and also timing. The talk should end with main
points or summary for the audience to remember. Using the last slide for a
non-essential point such as a list of references or call for questions is a
visual waste. The speaker can read from notes for himself only if he thinks he
might forget to call for questions.
A speaker would do well to review the slides by actually talking from
them in presentation practice, checking for slide content, presentation timing,
and transitions between slides. Notes just for himself and not to be displayed
to the audience might include the first sentence of the presentation and the
last presentation, and possibly some transitions between slides.
How to Present the Slides
Start by Introducing the Topic
It will relax both speaker and audience if the speaker begins by
looking into the audience with a smile on his lips. The speaker should give a sentence or
two of background about the topic, and how this research fits in. This is
essentially the elevator pitch, with main ideas to remember. Then he should say
how he is going to present those ideas, and launch into a bit of detail.
Read the Words on Each Slide, then Describe the Slide Graphic
Good practice in
general is to reading the slide title and additional words, if any, and then
describe the slide graphic. That way the
audience will not be reading the slide to themselves instead of listening to
Interact with the Audience
The audience will tend to pay attention to the speaker if the speaker pays
attention to them. For example,
the speaker can have a dialogue with the group as a whole: Ask them provocative
questions. If someone calls out a comment, he might answer it. He might change
speaking style temporarily to re-awaken their attention. Raise or lower tone of
voice or the speaker might talk and then pause. A carefully-planned silence
will make some keen to hear a question that is mumbled.
If the Speaker Finds He Is Running out of Time, He Should Skip Slides
He should finish
discussing the current slide, and then calmly skip as many slides as necessary
until near the end of the presentation. No apology to the audience is
necessary; it is professional to finish within the time allotted, and expected.
The speaker should retain the final slide that restates main points.
Speakers presenting research can capitalize on their effort by changing their style a bit to encourage more people to listen. If speakers implement only some of the suggestions in this article, they will research talks with the intent of seeing what works and what does not, and adapt additional techniques to make a notice results in terms of gaining the audience’s attention. Speakers can continue to refine their style by listening to other presentation effective.
Citation: Gelernter J (2017) Techniques to Hold the Attention of an Audience During a Research Presentation. Educ Res Appl 2: 109. DOI: 10.29011/2575-7032.100009