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Becoming Better Presenters

Introduction

Presenting in front of an audience is an absolutely fundamental skill for a researcher on any level – from undergraduate student to professor. Besides writing scientific documents like journal articles, this is the way you convey knowledge, your ideas, and research results to other people, be it students in a lecture, fellow researchers at a conference, or reviewers at a project audit.

Still, many people perform really bad in such situations and are quick in attributing this to a lack of talent. However, there are only very few born speakers. As with most skills, it's more a matter of attitude, knowledge, and training. Therefore, I regularly encourage colleagues and students I work with, to explicitly reconsider their presentation techniques and especially their use of slideware like Microsoft Powerpoint or Apple Keynote. Over the years, I have seen how many who followed this advise have tremendously enhanced their presentation skills to a point where it is a mere pleasure to follow their presentations. And looking at myself, I also found that the presentations I gave some years ago – and which I found to be very good at that point in time – could really have benefitted from some more thought and preparation.

To cite the old chinese philosopher Confucius: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." So here are some resources that should help you make your first step.

Resources

First, I want to recommend the book that triggered my interest in better presentation techniques:

Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery

Garr Reynolds has since written a another book that focuses on slide design:

Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations

Other books that I can recommend:

Nancy Duarte, slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations
Scott Berkun, Confessions of a Public Speaker

Of course, there are many more. I am also looking forward to the new books that Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds will publish later this year:

Garr Reynolds, The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides (Voices That Matter)
Nancy Duarte, resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences

Some more resources on the web:

Comments

There are two presentations I'd strongly recommend: Death by Powerpoint and Steal this presentation. Both give you the big picture and are really inspiring. (and, in contrast to the books mentioned above, they are free ;-)
Ah, and Star Wars fans might want to look at this hilarious blog entry :-)

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