12. Rappers and rhymers
Even if you can rhyme with the best of them —
don’t. Plan your talk and talk your plan. Face your
listeners — not the screen — and give them the reasons you did the research. Include your hypothesis.
Present the methods, then the data, and then draw
conclusions from the data collected.
8. Ego — ergo, uh-oh!
There is a fine line between being confident and
11. Where’s the respect?
being a jerk, and there is a hierarchy of where a
speaker can sit on that line. A Nobel laureate can justifi-
ably interject a lot more authority into a seminar than an
undergraduate student should. Be aware of your attitude.
Respect your listeners, colleagues, and peers. Save the
“I’m job hunting” advertisements for last, until after the
“We appreciate our funding
agencies” slide. It’s science, not
7. I’ll show you that later
Do not play hide-and-seek with your data. Don’t
10. And then I’ll…
tell your audience that the data
have been collected but aren’t
being presented, or are on a
slide you don’t have time to
show, or that they’re back in the
lab! If a talk has more than one
statement indicating that some-
thing important will be revealed
Unless required to, don’t
spend a lot of time discussing
the outline of your talk! Simply
offer a quick, concise overview
and then move on. Use the
valuable time to give data or
explain a unique method. The
existence of a conclusion at the
end of a talk should not surprise anyone.
9. R, DEKYP? PN!
Define acronyms! Also
define any terms that will make
it easier for the attendees to
understand what you’re talking
What to Expect at a
SCIENTIFIC MEETINGS (CONFERENCES) ARE important venues for presenting research and dis-
cussing projects and conclusions with other scientists.
They are hosted by universities, government agencies,
professional organizations — any group that wishes to
disseminate knowledge. Meetings are ideal opportuni-
ties to get experience in presenting data and results.
Meetings can focus on a specific topic (e.g., neurobi-ology of the hippocampus), or can include all aspects
of a field (e.g., chemistry), and can range from fewer
than 100 attendees to a nearly overwhelming 20,000
people. The American Chemical Society’s meetings
webpage ( www.acs.org/meetings) gives an idea of the
many diverse opportunities for showcasing important
Offer a quick, concise overview of your
talk and then move on.
Talks versus poster sessions
The length of talks is proportional to the significance
of the work or the prestige of the speaker. A Nobel
laureate might speak for two hours, whereas a sophomore chemistry student might have 10 minutes, max.
A smaller meeting of 150 attendees could consist of
two days of sequential talks attended by all registrants.
A large meeting may offer many days of concurrent
sessions, in which only the highest-regarded scientists
will have time slots that do not coincide with other
sessions. In this type of meeting it’s important to figure
out which topics you want to hear about — before the
Poster sessions showcase new work — work that
is not yet ready for an entire talk, or research by students, who are often first-time presenters. Information
is displayed on boards in a large room containing rows
and rows of posters. Presenters stand beside their posters and answer questions posed by meeting attendees
who wander through, often carrying snacks. (Try not
to cringe if someone is chewing celery and talking at
the same time.) If a poster viewer critiques your work,
don’t take it personally!
Meetings are ideal opportunities to get
experience presenting data and results.
later, it’s not formatted correctly.
Please don’t tease your listeners.
Just give them the data in a logical format.
6. Where, oh where,
has my data point
Modern applications allow
speakers to arrange slides full of
more information than anyone
ever dreamed possible. Data
from months-long experiments
can be packed into one slide
and projected, larger than life
— but harder to read. If you do
not want your audience’s brains
to run out their ears, decide
which data are pertinent to your
talk (required to support your
conclusions) and show those
data in a clear, understandable