Guidelines for Oral and Audio-Visual Paper Presentation
Adapted from and courtesy of: American Fisheries Society and D.E. Arnold, Pennsylvania Cooperative Fisheries Unit.
Presentation of research papers and other talks at scientific meetings, especially those of the AFS, has come a long way from the days when the typical presentation was titled "The Year 1931 at the Podunk Hatchery" and rambled on for half an hour or more. As the intensity and complexity of our meetings have increased, and the nilmber of attendees has grown, it has become ever more essential that speakers put forth not only a contribution to scientific knowledge in the field, but a presentation which is clear, concise, rigorous, and "accessible" to everyone in the room. The giving of such a paper, free from the ccmmon faults, using quality, smoothly-presented visual aids, and kept within the allotted time without the necessity for "police action" by the session chairman, has become a mark of professional competence and courtesy. The following guidelines are offered to help our meeting participants attain this happy state. Some of them can and will be enforced by the meeting staff, but the remainder are dependent on the efforts, good will, and professional pride of the participants.
It is suggested that the references at the end of this document be read for further ideas and susgestions on the practice and philosophy of good scientific presentation.
TALK to YOUR AUDIENCE
Why are you giving this paper? Presumably because you have something interesting to tell people - out loud, and in public. Why will people come to hear your paper? Presumably because they hope to be stimulated by hearing about your research and your ideas - from you yourself, in person. Don't disappoint them!
TALK, DON'T READ
People have come to hear you talk. Speaking and writing are so different that you will sound dull if you read monotonously from a condensed version of your latest manuscript or thesis. Prepare notes specifically for an informal address and force yourself to speak naturally and to avoid jargon. But don't depend on thcse notes - there probably won't be enough light to see them. It's best to make your slides in such a way that they serve as your notes; and to know your subject so well that you could give the talk smoothly without slides or notes.
On the other hand, don't become too informal. Many speakers tend to make "cute" remarks during the presentation, often disparaging their own data and/or visual aids. Data described as "smoking hot," "first cut," etc. should neither be presented nor so described. Such actions can and do damage your reputation and offend the audience.
STIMULATE THE AUOIENCE
Present your ideas with a few verbal punches to stimulate your listeners. Look at the audience and look for nods of agreement or signs of differtng viewpoints. You will find that this kind of communication is more rewarding than just reading your notes. If some listeners are so bored that they walk out (or fall asleep), at least you will see them go. And next time you will prepare a more exciting paper.
KEEP ON SCHEDULE
There are several good reasons for keeping your presentation comfortably within the allotted time. Doing so will help prevent illness of or mayhem by the program chairman and/or session moderator. But more important, it is a professional courtesy to your colleagues who, more often than not, wish to move freely between various sessions to "catch" specific papers. If one session runs off schedule this entire system breaks down. Also, those speakers following you deserve their full allotted time - it's not available for you to "borrow." Con't make your session moderator take "police action" against you - do it yourself by planning and rehearsing your presentation to fit into the allotted time, leaving a few minutes for questions.
The 35 mm or 2x2" slide has become the standard visual aid for scientific presentation. It has many advantages, and, with a little time and effort, virtually any material can be placed on a slide. We discourage other aids such as "overhead" transparencies because even if visually acceptable and properly sized (a rarity) they exact a heavy penalty in confusion, lost time, and distraction of the speaker and the audience.
Problems with slides generally fall into three categories: a) reversal, b) out-of-order, c) illegible. The first two can be prevented by simple care, use of standardized equipment (bring your slides already in a "carousel" tray if possible), and a pre-check by the speaker and the session moderator. The third is much more serious and more difficult to conquer, but it can be conquered.
Good slides amplify and clarify the message, stimulate interest, and help the speaker keep "on the track." They merit the same care in preparation as the commentary. Slides that cannot be read when projected lessen the impact and effectiveness of the presentation; in other words, the primary consideration is legibility.
Ideally, the author should work with a specialist who can translate information into effective visuals and who will instruct an artist and a photographer in making slides. Whether or not such assistance is available to you, you can make good slides using the following information.
Most errors in slide-making stem from the mistaken assumption that legibility in one form assures legibility in another. A person ordinarily reads printed material at a distance of 12 to 14 inches (304 to 356 mm). But frequently at a slide presentation the image projected is only 4x6 feet (1.2xl.8m); the rear seats are 70 feet (21.3m) from the screen! Reading the text of a 4-foot high image at 70 feet is like reading this page reduced to 33x44 millimeters. None of it would be legible, because of the small size of the original characters.
Illustrations in textbooks and reports are usually drawn carefully and labelled in detail. Copying such illustrations in slide form usually demonstrates that what may be adequate on the printed page ls inadequate on the screen. Line widths must be increased, and captions must be reduced in number, simplified, and increased in size. If you reduce a blueprint to-slide form and project it, the screen image will be illegible. Lines will be too faint, lettering will be too small, and the narrator will usually lose the audience while trying to explain in words what the audience should be seeing. A thick-line tracing of essentials, made with crayon, felt-tip pen, etc. or a simplified version is preferable.
OBSERVE THESE IMPORTANT POINTS
- Use 2x2-inch color slides - they are effective, easy to make, hnd inexpensive. Color film is also convenient for making slides from black-and-white copy.
- Use a colored background - it is better than black or white. An easy way to do this is to put a green, blue, dark yellow, etc. filter over the lens when photographing black-on-white copy.
- Limit each slide to one main idea.
- Use a slide series for progressive disclosure - it clarifies greatly.
- Limit each slide; include no more than you will discuss.
- Leave space - at least the height of a capital letter - between lines.
- Include titles to supplement, not duplicate, slide data.
- Use several simple slides rather than one complicated one, especially if you must discuss a subject at length.
- Use duplicates if you need to refer to the same slide at several different times in your talk. It is impractical for the projectionist to search for and reshow a slide.
- Plan your slides for a good visual pace in your presentation. Don't leave a slide on the screen after discussing its subject.
- Thumb-spot all slides in the lower left corner when the slide reads correctly on hand viewing. Add sequence numbers.
- If you have to say "Some of you may not be able to see this, but . . ." DON'T SHOW THAT SLIDE! If the slide is not legible from every point in the auditorium, it is useless. Never take an illustration from a thesis or printed paper; the print is usually too small and there will be too much unnecessary detail.
PREPARE FOR A SMOOTH PRESENTATION
- Rehearse your slide presentation several times so that you will be familiar with the sequence and timing of the slides.
- On your trip, carry your slides with you - in the tray, if possible. Oon't trust them to your baggage if it is checked through.
- Give your slides to the projectionist before the session, when you'll have time to discuss any special instructions with him. If you wait until just before your talk, he may be busy with the previous speaker's slides.
- Use the slides to supplement and support your oral presentation, not simply to repeat what you are saying.
- Request a pointer, if needed.
- Project your slides form 50-75 feet in a partially darkened room, and make sure you can read everything on them from at least the projection distance, preferably further.
- Each slide should be marked for numbered sequence, to assure proper order in carousel for projection; and with your name to assist retrieval. Feel free to bring your slides properly marked and arranged in your own carousel tray. Be sure the tray has a lid lock firmly in place. Make a trial run well in advance of the meeting to make sure each slide is in proper sequence, right side up and facing-properly (not backwards). There will not be time to rearrange slides during your scheduled appearance.
- Plan on no more than 15 slides, preferably fewer, for a 15-20 minute presentation.