and uhs, or rapid delivery that leaves them boggled, or a slow
pace that makes them wonder if you’re making it up as you go.
Remember to speak clearly. Do not mumble. Use the microphone, even if you have a voice like Zeus! Few things lead to
inattention faster than an inaudible speaker!
2. Fidget. Wiggle. Nibble.
Standing up in front of a bunch of people you don’t know —
or you do know and wish you didn’t — is nerve-wracking. Stand
still and allow your audience to focus on your talk. Don’t bite
your nails — especially while speaking. Leave your keys alone in
your pockets, without adding kinetic energy. Your listeners do not
need that kind of distraction. Don’t flip or twirl your hair. Don’t
tug on your hems, blouse, neckline, tie, collar, or other objects
within reach. Don’t wear your beach shorts,
your flip-flops, or your nightie. Do not dress
up as Einstein or a giant lobster. Let the data
have all the attention!
Impart information—don’t just read the data from
Preview the projected slides before
subjecting others to them. Graph dark
lines on light backgrounds, and avoid
using many lines with colors that are
separated by only a few wavelengths.
Connect the data points! Excel spread-sheets are wonderful tools but should
not be presented in toto; no one wants
to squint for hours on end.
If you have to say, “You can’t see this,
but…,” your data are not presented in an
effective way that validates all the hard
work you’ve done. Oh, and for Pete’s
sake — Label your axes! Label the rows
and columns! You know what you’re
graphing! You do, don’t you?
speak clearly. Do
not mumble. Use
even if you have
a voice like Zeus!
5. The laser light show
Don’t fidget with the laser pointer, either. There’s no
need to nauseate, aggravate, or hypnotize your listeners
by random, repetitive, unnecessary use of the laser pointer,
nor is blinding them, even if momentarily, a characteristic of
a good speaker. Green laser pointers are especially uncomfortable if used improperly. Be careful!
Provide your audience with data in a logical format.
1. Bedtime stories, anyone?
Unless you are conducting compliance training in
which the seminar attendees must certify that they’ve
heard every single word, Don’t Read Your Slides! If
everything that’s important about the project is projected
in text on the screen, your audience will need pillows and
blankets faster than you can say immunoglobulin. Use
your slides as a guide and give the seminar.
Impart information, don’t just read! Remember that
your fellow scientists will not be able to judge the importance of your data or your level of skill if your talk puts
them to sleep! Enjoy the meeting!
4. Where’s the credit?!
Always include an acknowledgments slide to thank
and credit individual lab members and other collaborators who provided data or helped advance your
project. If someone performed experiments that inspired yours,
acknowledge them when you cite their data. Your listeners are
highly educated people who want to know who “they” are, if
“they” performed experiments that inspired yours. Acknowledge
“them” when you cite their data. If others worked on the project
with you, acknowledge them, too.
Many thanks to those who responded to the author’s “Pet
Peeve e-Poll”: M. E. Anderson, P. Cappelletti, W. F. Carroll,
J. Cavanaugh, N. E. Claytor, M. R. Fraelich, J. Hatfield, C. M.
Hendrickson, S. Schlitzer, E. Shane, P. Smith, T. Smith, T. Strom,
R. Walter, and N. Williams. iC
3. OK, you know, um, you know…
No! No! No! Practice your talk and remove the spacers! Know
what you want to say, so your listeners are not distracted by ums
denise lynn merkle is president and consultant at SciConsult, Inc., in
Fort Worth, TX, and chair-elect 2009 of the Dallas-Fort Worth Local Section.