How to Prepare a Successful Research Presentation

Have you ever been nervous to give a presentation?  If yes, then you are not alone. It’s scary to stand in front of a room full of glaring eyes and given an effective crowd-pleasing presentation. I’m here to hopefully help anyone who may be nervous about Bio Seminar. This is a mandatory course for all seniors majoring in biology or environmental biology. This course requires every student to chose an advisor based on the type of research topic chosen. Then you’re asked to individually present a PowerPoint that’s roughly 12 minutes long. This was the first class that actually prepared me for my future career. Regardless of whatever field of science you decide to go into, chances are you will have to give some sort of presentation. Coming from someone who just went through the experience, I’m here to tell you it’s not easy, but there are some tricks you can learn to boost your public speaking confidence. 

Here is a list of things you should try:

  1. Get there early. Make sure you are comfortably holding the pointer and navigating the stage. Arriving early also helps you see what your slides will look like on the projector. If the computer in the room is a PC, you may want to make sure everything looks the same if you have a Mac.
  2. Avoid lots of text. Instead, just add images and talk about what you were going to put on the slides. This will make you seem very knowledgeable on the topic.
  3. Don’t read off flashcards and don’t memorize a script! This will make you come off like a robot. Instead, try to form naturally fluid sentences. If you are passionate about your topic the words should come easily.
  4. Practice in front of large groups of people prior to your talk. This helped me a lot! Try presenting in front of roommates, student clubs, teammates, etc.
  5. Animate one piece of information at a time. People tend to throw all the text up at once. This not only overwhelms the audience, but you also lose the element of surprise. Doing it this way allows you to control what is presented
  6. Elaborate on each point. This class has a mix of undergrads, grads, and faculty, so chances are at least one person won’t know what you’re talking about.
  7. Make the audience interested. Try to sound enthusiastic. The last thing the audience wants to hear is some monotone person who sounds like they are absolutely miserable up there. If you are excited, others will be too!
  8. Pick four corners of the room to focus on. One of the criteria you’ll be graded on is eye contact. I know some people don’t want to directly look into someone’s eyes. Instead fixate on one point then move your eyes to the next. This will create the illusion that you are making eye contact, but it’ll take the pressure off of you.
  9. Be prepared for questions. This one is tough. It is hard to know what someone is going to ask, especially the faculty. Just try to research as much as you can on the topic.
  10. Lastly, have fun! I think some students forget that these assignments are supposed to be interesting, not tedious. I learned so much from my topic on Lyme Disease that I’m actually considering pursuing further research on it.

Lana Puddu ’19 is a senior at Plymouth State University majoring in Biology with a double minor in Chemistry and Sustainability. She is originally from Belen, New Mexico. When Lana isn’t in the classroom you can find her skiing, running, and hanging out with friends.