As a student, you will have to present sometime during your education. Despite this, there is hardly any time allocated to learning the skills required in giving a good presentation .
As part of your Masters degree at Aalborg University you’ll have to participate in at least one status seminar presenting your thesis (20 minutes). Afterwards there is a 5 minute time slot for questions from the audience. The audience will be your fellow students, your supervisor(s) and other students or employees who may be interested in your project content.
My fellow (Albertsen Lab) master students and I, spend approximately two weeks preparing for this. During this period, it became clear that the amount of guidance we got was pretty unusual. Hence, I thought I would share how we prepared and the differences it made in general and specifically to our slides.
- 19th: Meeting, brainstorming about content of presentation
- 20th: Sending the first draft of the presentation and receiving feedback.
- 26th: Rehearsal of presentations. Each student within our group presented and we were constructively critiqued by others in the group regarding slide content and presentation skills.
- 27th: Improved slideshow was sent once again and feedback was given for the final time.
- 31st: Status seminar
Although it seems to be rather extensive, I feel all of our presentations benefited from the extra effort.
Example from Peters presentation
Before: Peter wanted to illustrate how he had optimized the method.
After: A line-up of conditions before and after optimization.
Example from Kaspers presentation
Before: Kasper wanted to illustrate how your ordination plot can change depending on your choice of distance metric.
After: Kasper added a progress bar (with neutral colors), found an example to better illustrate his point, added the citation and underlined his point with big red statement.
Example from my presentation (1)
Before: I wanted to show the current status of my network function.
After: I changed some visual properties in my tools for better visualization. I also changed the specific OTU name to example names, as my audience could not relate to the MiDAS data base.
Example from my presentation (2)
Before: I wanted to make a quick introduction to correlation
After: Removing text for simplification and adding citation.
What you cannot see from the examples, is the improvement in the delivery of our presentations. As a student it can be nerve-racking to present science in front of an audience. If you haven’t had feedback, that is just one more thing to be nervous about. Getting feedback both on my slides and my way of presenting them gave me the safety of proper preparation.
After this experience, I can’t help but feeling thankful that learning to present is of high priority in our group. It is key to be able to communicate your message clearly, especially in a scientific community. It is not a part of our curriculum and maybe it is too much to expect, that students can learn to master this without any guidance.