Spoken Word: Presentations

Presentations and talks are some of the activities that hardly any person with a science education can avoid. At some point everyone have to stand in front of a crowd and present some topic. The crowd may be small or large and they may or may not know the topic in advance. Regardless of the circumstances, there is one thing that anyone would benefit from – that thing is presentation technique.

Talks and presentations are a different from the digital platforms because they require physical presence, which makes the atmosphere more intense when performed well – and more tedious when the communication fails.

The three corner stones of presentations

Generally, there are three main elements in a successful presentation: the speaker, the audience and some kind of material, usually a presentation or a blackboard. Being aware of these three elements will give a stable foundation for a good talk. Neglecting either of these will increase the risk of a bad experience for both audience and speaker.

The speaker

As a speaker or presenter the two most important elements are the body language and voice. The majority of communication in physical form is non-verbal, which means that if you can keep a good posture, direct your attention to the audience and speak in a clear voice you already came a long way. Of course you need a proper message to deliver, but having the basics down will help you not only when it goes well, but also when the talk do not progress as planned. If you forget what to say or say something off-script, a good physical appearance will be forgiving to your unforeseen events.

The audience

The audience is there to hear you speak. Their attention is directed at you and your slides, so be careful not to overload with too much information both places at the same time. It is a common mistake to put too much text on the slides to keep a structure for the talk, but the result can be that the audience spends their attention reading instead of listening.

The material

Whether you bring a slide show, a roll-up or a use the blackboard you have to make sure your material is prepared in advance. A good slide show starts with a manuscript. Write down all you points and find a good structure. Then figure out how to present you message for each slide the best possible way. A photo is processed 1,000 times faster than words, so whenever a photo is suitable, make sure to use that. Up to 90% of your preparation time can be spent on manuscript and structuring, and only the last 10% is needed for the actual build.


A good slide show should support the message of the speaker. If it steals the full attention, the speaker is redundant – and then no one hears the message.