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Author Topic: Presentations that suck: Life Science Edition  (Read 4310 times)
lucy_
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« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2012, 8:18:02 AM »

A few random thoughts:

1. Sometimes our students can learn from us. Sometimes we can learn from them. I teach an honors course with a colleague, where the students give 1 hour presentations (just like an invited seminar; ~45 minutes of talking, followed by ~10 minutes of questions and answers). We taught them the concept of show and tell, taught them not to have slides full of words, not to read from the slides, note cards, or anything else, showed them not only some good pointers, but also showed them what a bad presentation would include, not as funny as Chicken Chicken Chicken, but it made the point.

However, sometimes our students show us better ways of doing things. And I wish I could remember the program. One student used a program other than powerpoint that used a map and timeline and did it very well. A few students that were presenting later in the course, asked to bother that students formatting. i really liked it, but can't for the life of me remember what it was.

2. I have a colleague that will fail a student's presentation if they don't have that outline slide (well, not the one you described, but one with more detail) and a summary slide at the end. I have another colleague that will fail a student if they do have that outline slide and summary slide. His rationale that I am much closer to. "Hey, don't insult me by telling me what you're going to tell me, telling me, then telling me what you just told me. I'm not an idiot, I think I can remember for that long. Telling me first takes away from the story. If I already know what you are going to tell me, what do I have to look forward to." When he shared this with me, I realized that I never do an outline slide. Rather, I see a talk as an opportunity to share a story. I like story tellers and I guess that's more my style. Develop an interesting story.

3. I don't tell jokes, but I do tend to  pepper my talks with humor, where it comes up organically. I do the same thing when I teach. People like humor, or so I've found. As long as it doesn't feel forced.

4. I had a student preparing to give an internal undergrad lunchtime seminar about their research. He practiced for us (my research group). When he was done, I only gave him a few pointers to follow:

a. The only people in the room who are going to be interested in what you have to say are sitting in front of you now. You need to remove the jargon and explain things. Pretend like you are trying to explain it to your mother or sister (i knew they weren't in the sciences); don't dumb it down, but make it accessible, which just means to explain things to people, and stop with the jargon. Just tell an interesting story, and make sure you explain things well to others.

b. Your slides should be mostly pictures (figures, tables, graphs, diagrams, pictures, etc) with very few words, just enough as a cue for you and your audience. Think "show and tell".

after a few days, we went over the talk again, much improved. And were at a point to deal with all the little editing details.

After he gave his talk, several of the other students came up to him and said it was by far the best talk they had been to all year.

It truly went from a really awful talk to a really outstanding talk by just changing those few things.

That gave me great encouragement that we really can teach our students to become better public speakers.

and I must say, I didn't become a good public speaker until I started teaching. To me, teaching is like giving a 1 hours plus seminar every day. And worse, on topics we are less intimately familiar with, than our own research.

Have others noticed that the more they teach, the better their research seminars become?
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lucy_
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« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2012, 8:31:04 AM »

Too much time in between to add this:

Chicken Chicken Chicken, reminded me of "Death by Powerpoint":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbSPPFYxx3o&feature=related

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usukprof
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« Reply #17 on: November 20, 2012, 11:01:26 PM »

Heh! I got Chicken Chicken from someone on the fora, yes?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yL_-1d9OSdk

Is it bad that I used this in my science-theme comp research class?

The chicken paper is reminiscent of one submitted to a notorious pay-to-publish junk conference that spams CFPs across email lists.  Get me off your fvcking mail list.
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merinoblue
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« Reply #18 on: November 20, 2012, 11:21:51 PM »

I am not funny like LarryC.

Who is?  You are funny, though!

Very!
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mouseman
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« Reply #19 on: November 21, 2012, 12:38:39 AM »

Well, there are the presentation where there are 12 graphs on a single slide, and the speakers goes through every one, half-page paragraphs on slides, and yellow text on white background.  There was the dude who presented all of his results as P-values, and couldn't present any of the coefficients (linear regression, and he couldn't tell us the slopes or the r-squares).  There was the guy who managed to include in his talk "synergy", "biocomplexity", and "paradigm shift".  There were more, but I've blanked them out.  It was a 45-minute talk by a senior faculty member in a department in which I needed some favors so I couldn't walk out or even writhe in agony.  The same guy also gave a talk in which he assigned deep biological importance to a pattern that was an artifact of his analysis method.

Oh yes, I was at this talk.  It had everything, cameras mysteriously malfunctioning, sounds only heard after all recording equipment was stored, research organisms that always disappeared just before the researchers came with their cameras, and who moved through dense woods and underbrush without ever leaving a single hair, and a belief that search for evidence of a forgone conclusion is science.  It was both hilarious and sad.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2012, 12:40:10 AM by mouseman » Logged

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
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frogfactory
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« Reply #20 on: November 21, 2012, 9:59:41 AM »

I went to one where the speaker was describing differences in the immune response of stressed vs resting frogs.  He showed a video demonstrating how one stresses out a frog - it was footage of him literally chasing them around a room. 

That was kind of awesome, though.
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pandora178
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« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2012, 8:34:49 PM »

I've mainly seen verbatim reading from slides by people who don't speak English very well.

Yep, me too. And while it can be excruciating to watch someone stumble through such a talk, at least they're trying it. I sure as hell couldn't give a talk in the language of my current country.

If their native language is not English, then we have to give some credits for trying.
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westcoastgirl
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« Reply #22 on: November 25, 2012, 9:29:50 PM »

I went to one where the speaker was describing differences in the immune response of stressed vs resting frogs.  He showed a video demonstrating how one stresses out a frog - it was footage of him literally chasing them around a room. 

That was kind of awesome, though.

This is great.
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zyzzx
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« Reply #23 on: November 28, 2012, 12:41:01 PM »

I'm currently at a conference (for a STEM field that's not life science, but, well, close enough), and I was pleasantly surprised today. For some ridiculous number of talks today (coming at 12 minute intervals all day), there were none that fell into the cringe-inducing category. Nothing really spectacular either, but a day of average talks is pretty good. No reading verbatim off slides, no slides crammed full of only text, no detailed outlines for a 10 minute talk, etc. Particularly impressive, since something like 95% of the presenters are non-native English speakers. Hopefully I'll manage to get through the rest of the meeting without anything to add to this thread...
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anisogamy
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« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2012, 10:17:37 AM »

I went to one where the speaker was describing differences in the immune response of stressed vs resting frogs.  He showed a video demonstrating how one stresses out a frog - it was footage of him literally chasing them around a room. 

That was kind of awesome, though.

I just chortled while drinking my tea.
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zyzzx
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« Reply #25 on: November 29, 2012, 12:10:34 PM »

Ugh, well, today we had some presentations that really sucked. There was one kind of classic powerpoint presentation that was almost all text and flowcharts. It was formatted nicely, and pretty, but <yawn>. In defense of my field, this was a government type talking more about strategies and initiatives and not much about science. The rest were just incomprehensible because the speakers spoke crazy fast with a strong accent, and one topped it off by speaking way too loudly way too close to the microphone, making it literally cringe-inducing.
Hopefully tomorrow will be better...
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