Download the Project Presentation assignment (.pdf)
The Major Project Conference Paper assignment is part of the Major Project assignment sequence.
- Week of April 20. Sign up times for the later half of the week will be announced via email.
The conference presentation is the last component of Major Project assignment sequence. For this assignment, you will want to use your written conference paper to prepare an oral presentation, supporting visuals, and handouts (if any).
Please follow any written guidelines for presenters posted on the website of your chosen conference. While I offer some general directions below, any directions provided by your target conference that conflict with anything here supercedes any directions I provide. When there’s a conflict, let me know so that I understand the changes you make.
Unless otherwise directed by the conference website, plan to talk for 12 minutes. Fifteen minutes per presenter — 12 minutes to present and 3 minutes for questions — is fairly standard in the sciences.
Structure (Primary Research Presentations)
In a standard scientific talk based on primary research, your goal is to tell a story about your research that you present in four movements or parts: Introduction, method, results, conclusion/summary. Because you have limited time, you will not be able to cover everything you have worked on, explored, found, etc. Instead, you need choose one central point you would like to make in your presentation and develop that idea as a single narrative that begins in your introduction and ends in your conclusion. Remember, with a total of 12 minutes, you have just a few minutes to devote to each section.
- The Introduction: Don’t just state your problem but tell your audience why the problem is an important one, not just for you but for them as well. You should clearly your hypothesis or prediction that you tested.
- The Method: Unless the purpose of your research was to develop a new methodology, you should seek to keep this section brief while being specific enough so that your audience understands what you did. Try to present your methods as a narrative, as a story.
- The Results: Tell us what you discovered, focusing on your main results as they pertain to your central idea. Resist the urge to tell us everything you learned. You’ll likely get a chance to share a bit more during the question and answer section, and if other results are important enough, you can turn those results into an entirely new presentation to be delivered at a different conference. Depending upon the kind of presentation you’re giving, this may be the most visually rich section of your presentation in which you use charts, graphs, and other visuals to represent your findings.
- The Conclusion/Summary: While often hurriedly rushed through by presenters who are running over their allotted time, the conclusion is the most important part of a talk. In the conclusion, you should reiterate the main idea you want your audience to walk away with, and explain why your research is significant for all of us. Connect the ideas in your conclusion to ideas presented in your introduction (which might require you to revise your introduction). Often, you can present these ideas as a few bullet points — three or four bullet points at the most.
In “Ten Secrets to Giving Good Scientific Talks,” Mark Schoeberl and Brian Toon note that in good presentations “speakers often broaden the Introduction to set the problem within a very wide context” and they may also add fifth item: Future Research.”
Secondary research and review of literature presentations can be organized along the lines of a primary research presentation, with the methods section briefly discussing the scope of your sources and your selection criteria. Lay article presentations, on the other hand, will have specific goals (such as describing a scientific concept for a lay audience or arguing for a particular policy recommendation) that will define how the presentation should be organized.
Regardless, these presentations should not be designed for an oral presentation rather than consist of your written text read out loud. As with a primary research presentation, you want to identify a main point and develop that one idea.
Because you only have 12 minutes, you likely won’t be able to cover everything you’ve included in your paper. Instead, you need choose one central point you would like to make in your presentation and develop that idea as a single narrative that begins in your introduction and ends in your conclusion.
It is standard practice in scientific talks for presenters to not read from a written script but to give a talk based upon a series of slides. An effective strategy for most slides is to have a single sentence-assertion that is accompanied by a few bullet points developing the assertion or visuals supporting the assertion. The bulk of your presentation is filling in the details based upon the bullet points and visuals. Keep in mind the concept of framing as discussed on pages 239-240 of The MIT Guide.
While there is no hard set rule on how many slides you should use, you should plan on somewhere between 12 and 25 slides for a 12-minute talk. Some slides, especially charts and graphs representing your data, will require you to discuss at length. For such slides, you might spend a minute or 90 seconds. Other slides might need far less time, maybe 15 or 20 seconds.
In addition to the “Oral Presentation” chapter of The MIT Guide, see the “Visual Aids” section of Penn State’s Effective Presentations in Engineering and Sciences (which includes videos) and “Guidelines: How to Construct & Present a Scientific Presentation.”
Don’t forget to include a Title slide that includes the title of your talk, your name, and affiliation. Many presenters also include their email address and/or Twitter handle.
Week of April 19. Sign up times for the later half of the week will be announced via email.
We will use Google Hangouts for our presentations, so you will want to set up and test Google Hangouts on your computer if you don’t already have it, and you will want to go over the instructions for screen sharing so that you can share your slides as you give your presentation. (See the Resources section below.)