Research and discovery are the foundations of our livelihoods in STEM. Women continue to advance the world through science, technology, and other avenues, but once their research is complete, their efforts to share key findings become crucial for enacting social change.
As a researcher and scientist, you may find presenting your work to be one of the more challenging parts of your job. You can take comfort, however, from knowing that you can develop your public speaking skills over time with practice and experience.
Dr. Joanne Kamens, a senior consultant at The Impact Seat—a Boston-based organization that offers diversity, equity, and inclusion training—recently provided foundational tips on how presenters can execute their next speaking engagements. During her “Excellent Public Speaking for Scientists” webinar on December 8, Dr. Kamens shared insights with AWIS attendees on how to prepare themselves to be good public speakers. AWIS members who missed the webinar can watch the recording.
Here are some highlights from Dr. Kamens’s presentation:
Present Content in an Engaging Way
Give the audience something to think about, argue with, or learn from. Treat your talk like an open discussion. Also, improve your skills by watching other experienced speakers! Most speakers talk without looking at their slides or notes. Your slides should be simple for your listeners to process and should complement your spoken message.
Tailor Your Talk to the Occasion
If an old presentation does not fit your new speaking engagement, make modifications. Add new information tailored to your audience. Be sure to ask the organizer questions about the makeup of the audience. PRO TIP: Ask the organizer to add demographic information to the registration form and to share this information with you.
Start creating presentations now! Create a file that captures critical results from your research that you would want to share, attractive images, creative ideas, and stories that relate to the research.
Practice Makes You More Prepared
Practice giving talks to your friends or colleagues. You’ll receive feedback that will help you present more confidently. PRO TIP: Form a peer mentoring group, and practice with each other.
Don’t Be Boring
Talk about something you know a lot about and that you care about! Your enthusiasm for the topic determines how you come across and how an audience receives what you present. Share your “Aha” moments and future research directions.
Be Prepared for Questions
During practice rounds with friends, please encourage them to ask questions. Be clear and concise with your answers. Never make up an answer. If you don’t know how to respond, say that you will get back to the questioner after you have done some additional research, and then do so, if you can. PRO TIP: Plant an ally in the audience to get the questions rolling.
Presentation Slides Support
Your Talk A good rule of thumb is to present one slide for every minute and a half of the talk. Watch your timing, and keep your message concise. Resist the urge to show all the data. Practice your presentation one last time, and cut out any superfluous slides.
The best speakers are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and connect with their audience. Dr. Kamens provides resources to help you with every stage of preparing your talk. Members can check out these resources.
In addition to her role as a senior consultant at The Impact Seat, Dr. Kamens is an AWIS National Board Member and founder of the AWIS Massachusetts chapter. She also has a deep knowledge of STEM jobs gained through her own science career and mentoring work. Connect with Dr. Kamens on Twitter.
This article was originally published in AWIS Magazine. Join AWIS to access the full issue of AWIS Magazine and more member benefits.