NYU Langone Medical Center

Oral Presentation


How to Give a Scientific Presentation
Tung-Tien Sun, NYU School of Medicine


When was the last time you went to a seminar and encountered these problems? The slides were packed with tiny text that you needed a telescope to read them. The presenter nevertheless went on to read every word  – as if the audience dont know how to read. Or the texts are large but they are red on a deep blue background so that you could hardly read them. Or a speaker showed a slide with 5 small panels of figures, but said you only needed to pay attention to one of them – please ignore all the rest. Or the talk ended without a conclusion slide, or, conversely, had 5 or 6 ‘conclusion slides’ – interspersed throughout the talk….

The list goes on and on. The problem is that too often scientists think that their data can “speak for themselves”, so they don’t need to bother preparing a good talk. That is too bad. To be able to deliver a seminar effectively is important, because this enables the you to convey your ideas to your colleagues and, through this process, to increase your impact in the field.

Below is a list of (A) books that have received excellent reviews
, and several rather informative (B) websites and (C) videos.

A.     Recommended Books

I list six books that have received excellent reviews and reader feedback.

The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid
By Michael Alley
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Springer (December 13, 2002)
Avg Customer Rating: 4.5 (out of 5; 14 customer reviews)
Price: $26.37

Editorial Reviews:
Praises for Michael Alley's THE CRAFT OF SCIENTIFIC PRESENTATIONS:

THE JOURNAL OF THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF SCIENCE EDITORS
"A book that one can read for pleasure and self-improvement, as well as utilize as a manual... A valuable addition to the libraries of scientific institutions and I have already recommended it to several of my research organization clients."

"Scientific presentation, whether for a gathering of colleagues or a general audience, benefit from techniques of stagecraft and rhetoric. … The Craft of Scientific Presentations is informal in tone but serious in intend. Alley makes the reader think about the point of a presentation, about different kinds of presentations, and about different techniques … . He is at his best discussing well-chosen examples from both great and lesser-known lecturers, and his counsel to anticipate what could go wrong is sage advice." (Chris Quigg, Physics Today, July, 2004)

"The author, an experienced teacher, adds numerous examples not only from his praxis, but found in many biographies, memorial books, and articles of well known scientists and speakers. … Due to the applied form the book presents amusing reading for everybody … . Forty-one illustrations accompany the text … . Beginners in presenting speeches will find the book a source of both useful and interesting information, experienced lecturers can learn many amazing stories from the history of science." (Z. Šesták, Photosynthetica, Vol. 41 (4), 2003)

"What makes an oral presentation effective? The Craft of Presentations considers presentations made to persuade an audience to adopt some course of action (such as funding a proposal) as well as presentations made to communicate information … . Its goal is to provide you with the insights and tools to let you learn from your own presentations until they become outstanding." (Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics, Vol. 84 (1-2), 2003)

"A failure to communicate the principal message of a scientific presentation can have literally catastrophic consequences. … the book does contain much good advice. This is summarized in useful tables and checklists that are easy to locate and refer to subsequently. Having just returned from a large international conference, I only wish that many of the speakers had studied Alley’s book." (Keith McEwen, Physics World, October, 2003)

"Rather than present a list of simple rules for giving scientific presentations, this book looks at the styles of successful presenters such as Boltzmann, Einstein, Feynman, Levi-Montalcini and Linus Pauling … . The bulk of the book considers in detail ten critical errors that undermine the performance of the speaker, from giving the wrong speech to not preparing enough to not paying attention and loosing composure." (Book News on the Internet, June, 2003)

Product Description:
THE CRAFT OF SCIENTIFIC PRESENTATIONS provides a score of examples from contemporary and historical scientific presentations to show clearly what makes an oral presentation effective. It considers presentations made to persuade an audience to adopt some course of action (such as funding a proposal) as well as presentations made to communicate information, and it considers these from four perspectives: speech, structure, visual aids, and delivery. In keeping with technological innovations, it discusses computer-based projections and slide shows as well as overhead projections. In particular, it discusses ways of organizing graphics and text in projected images and of using layout and design to present the information efficiently and effectively.
Unlike other books that discuss technical presentations, this book anchors its advice in the experiences of scientists and engineers, including such successful presenters as Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, Niels Bohr, and Rita Levi-Montalcini, as well as currently active laboratory directors, scientists, and engineers. In addition to examining successful presentations, Alley also discusses the errors that cause many scientific presentations to flounder, providing a list of ten critical errors to avoid. The insights and tools in this book will guide readers to deliver outstanding presentations.

Praise for Michael Alley's THE CRAFT OF SCIENTIFIC PRESENTATIONS:
"Alley has revamped the way our research center makes presentations-particularly the way we design our presentation slides." DANIEL J. INMAN, DIRECTOR CENTER FOR INTELLIGENT MATERIAL SYSTEMS
"This book fills a void by illustrating key issues and difficulties in oral presentations with the experiences of others." CHRISTENE MOORE, COMMUNICATION INSTRUCTOR UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN

Sample Customers’ Comments:
“I give about a dozen technical presentations a year at trade shows, and I learned a lot from this book. I am changing my PowerPoint slides using many of the tips in this book, including complete sentence in the headline. I had designed my slides to help me remember my points. I should have been designing them so the audience could understand them. Besides giving me a better understanding of what I am trying to accomplish, the book was a fun read with numerous stories from the famous and not so famous. There were times it was actually hard to put the book down.”

Click here for a preview, and check Amazon.com for additional Readers’ Comments before you make a purchase decision.

Dazzle 'Em With Style : The Art of Oral Scientific Presentation
by Robert R. H. Anholt
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Academic Press; 2 edition (September 20, 2005)
Avg. Customer Rating: 5 (out of 5; 5 customer reviews)
List Price: $31.40

Editorial Reviews:
"Brimming with sound general advice and many excellent tips and tricks. Dazzle 'em with Style aims to leave its readers so prepared for their presentations that their brilliance will come shining though."
- CIVIL ENGINEERING (July 2006)

Product Description
Mastering the art of communicating scientific information is more critical than ever for a successful career in science and technology. Scientists today must be able to effectively convey sophisticated information to a broad audience that may include students, colleagues around the world, regulatory bodies, granting agencies, legislators, and the lay public. In this engaging and lively book, the author provides a step-by-step guide to the complete process of making a scientific presentation from preparation to delivery. It offers numerous examples highlighting what to follow and what to avoid. This revised edition covers the effective use of PowerPoint and other computer-based presentation programs. It also includes a handy checklist, new illustrations, and tips on handling an audience in a foreign country.

Sample Customers’ Reviews:
I dazzled (thanks to this book), May 11, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from Chicago, Illinois
“Anholt covers everything you need to know about making a good scientific presentation (in any discipline)- how to structure a talk, how to present your data (on slides or overhead transparencies), how to use body language, how to answer audience questions. He illustrates his tips with real-life examples (photos and drawings) and amusing anecdotes, so you can see the logic behind his suggestions and know what to avoid doing too. The section on poster presentations was very helpful-- it includes a drawing of a real poster so that you can see an example of a good layout. The book is well-organized, easy to follow, and has really helped me avoid so many of the pitfalls that commonly plague science presentations.”

“There are many fine books that cover presentation skills. However, there are far fewer books that cover this topic as it specifically relates to graduate science research. Robert Anholt has done a wonderful job in this regard.”

Click here for a preview, click here for an outline of the book, and check Amazon.com for additional Readers’ Comments before you make a purchase decision.

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations
By Nancy Duarte
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (August 12, 2008)
Avg Customer Rating: 4.5 (out of 5; 91 customer reviews)
Price: $23.09

Product Description:
No matter where you are on the organizational ladder, the odds are high that you've delivered a high-stakes presentation to your peers, your boss, your customers, or the general public. Presentation software is one of the few tools that require professionals to think visually on an almost daily basis. But unlike verbal skills, effective visual expression is not easy, natural, or actively taught in schools or business training programs. slide:ology fills that void.

Written by Nancy Duarte, President and CEO of Duarte Design, the firm that created the presentation for Al Gore's Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, this book is full of practical approaches to visual story development that can be applied by anyone. The book combines conceptual thinking and inspirational design, with insightful case studies from the world's leading brands. With slide:ology you'll learn to:
Connect with specific audiences
Turn ideas into informative graphics
Use sketching and diagramming techniques effectively
Create graphics that enable audiences to process information easily
Develop truly influential presentations
Utilize presentation technology to your advantage
Millions of presentations and billions of slides have been produced -- and most of them miss the mark. slide:ology will challenge your traditional approach to creating slides by teaching you how to be a visual thinker. And it will help your career by creating momentum for your cause.

About the Author:
Principal of Duarte Design since 1990, Nancy Duarte passionately pursues the presentation development and design niche. One of the largest design firms in Silicon Valley and listed as a top woman-owned business in the area, Duarte Design is one of the few agencies in the world focused solely on presentations, whether they are delivered in person, online or via mobile device. Nancy's twenty years of experience working with global companies and thought leaders has influenced the perception of some of the world's most valuable brands and many of humanity's common causes.

Click here for a preview, and check Amazon.com for additional Readers’ Comments before you make a purchase decision.

“I Can See You Naked”: Making Fearless Presentations
by Ron Hoff, Barrie Maguire (Illustrator)
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing; Original edition (June 1, 1992)
Avg Customer Rating: 4.5 (out of 5; 13 customer reviews)
Price: $14.24 (new)

Editorial Reviews/Synopsis:
A complete guide to public speaking describes the qualities of a good presenter and discusses openings, nervousness, boredom, audiences, question handling, and more.

Customer Reviews:
The almost perfect public speaking textbook, March 9, 2001

Reviewer: Dr. Susan Z. Swan from Indiana USA “College bookstores do a brisk "buy back" business at the end of each term. Since I started using "Naked" in my basic public speaking classes, the bookstore has to regularly order new editions because so many students want to keep this book! Hoff captures vividly the sense of public speaking as a MUTUAL RELATIONSHIP, not a one-way autocracy. His coverage of communication apprehension/speech fright is excellent as is his coverage of first impressions, delivery, and audience analysis (which includes language use and setting analysis). His coverage of organization is less developed, but it is a treat to see his use of classical Roman rhetoric in establishing a basic organizational pattern (although he is incorrect in claiming that Cicero wrote the first manual of oratory---that credit goes to the earlier Greeks, Corax and Tisias). This book moves basic public speaking out of an artificial classroom setting to the larger world in which students will spend their professional and personal lives. Hoff's enthusiasm and experience go a long way to convincing readers that they too can achieve "the perfect moment" in connecting with an audience. Bravo!”
Trainer's Bible, February 16, 2001

Reviewer: A reader from New York, NY USA
“I've been training trainers for five years and I consider this book my bible. It's the best investment I've ever made. I had fun reading it and was able to apply what I learned immediately in my training. Ron Hoff addresses just about everything one should know before speaking in front of a group and he does it with humor and heart. He is my training hero! I try to re-read it every few months for fresh inspiration and motivation.”
A great, funny book easily makes your presentations smooth,

Reviewer: missys1056@aol.com
“This easy-to-read book helps you to calm your nerves about presenting your work in public. It is written with great good humor and style. The author has clearly "been there" and knows how to give terrific tips on how you can be the best speaker/presenter possible.
If you are going to get one book on how to prepare and present the best speech or presentation, this is the one.
Great book for bringing your presentations to life., July 30, 1998

Reviewer: A reader from College Station, TX USA
I selected this book as the primary text for a train the trainer program I facilitate in my organization because it's got great tips, and because it's easy to read, understand, and apply. I would recommend it to other trainers who want to capture and keep the attention of people they train.

Click here for a preview, and check Amazon.com for additional Readers’ Comments before you make a purchase decision.

The Exceptional Presenter: A Proven Formula to Open Up and Own the Room
By Timothy J. Koegel
Hardcover: 188 pages
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2007)
Average Customer Review: 4.5 (out of 5; 45 customer reviews)
Price: $14.93 (new)

Editorial Reviews/Product Description:
Revised and Expanded Edition
It's often reported that the number one fear among American adults is public speaking. But in today's competitive business world, effective communication is a crucial skill, and the cost of being less than effective is quite high. From the White House to boardrooms worldwide, Tim Koegel has strengthened presentations, media relations and communications skills of CEOs and world leaders alike with his renowned coaching abilities. His new book, The Exceptional Presenter, lays out his techniques in a format perfectly suited to today's busy world.

Sample Customer Reviews:
“The book is organized around what, at first glance, seems like a corny conceit. Koegel claims that an exceptional presenter is one who can "OPEN UP and own the room." Why does he put "OPEN UP" in all caps? Because that's the author's self-invented acronym that refers to six characteristics Koegel feels all great presenters share -- they're Organized, Passionate, Engaging and Natural speakers who Understand their audiences and routinely Practice their presentation skills. The book then devotes a full chapter to each of these traits. Each chapter is filled with useful tips. The one on being passionate has two dozen!.... Additional chapters help you prepare your own introductions, conduct question-and-answer sessions and, my favorite, control your nervous energy. The back of the book has a series of worksheets to use to help you practice your skills, prepare and grade your performances and even judge television "presenters" such as debating politicians and the guests who are interviewed on "60 Minutes."”

“his book is mandatory reading for every professional in our company. My business is incredibly competitive - lots at stake. Everyone, from our senior most rainmaker to our newest Associate has benefited. I have read this book twice, and contemplate Koegel's suggestions before every presentation I make. This book makes one a better presenter both by instructing what is effective, but also by pointing out things that can negatively impact a presentation or communication of a message. I can't imagine a better book of presentation "do's and don'ts"!!”

Click here for a preview, and check Amazon.com for additional Readers’ Comments before you make a purchase decision.

In The SpotLight, Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Performing
By Janet E. Esposito
Paperback: 155 pages
Publisher: In The SpotLight, LLC; First edition (October 14, 2005)
Average Customer Review: 5 (out of 5; 60 customer reviews)
Price: $19.95 (new)

Editorial Reviews:
“In The SpotLight is a real gift to people experiencing any degree of fear or discomfort in speaking or performing in front of others, either in formal or informal settings. Janet Esposito demonstrates sensitivity, wisdom, and passion in guiding her readers on a path to overcoming their fears and discovering a newfound freedom and power in self-expression. Her enthusiasm for her topic makes for easy and lively reading. You will want to read In The SpotLight if you have any anxiousness in speaking or performing in front of others!” -- Sharon McQuaide, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service

“In The SpotLight should become a handbook for people in the performing arts as well as those who are interested in succeeding in other occupations. Its exercises are a guide to developing communication skills that are essential to all relationships, both professional and personal. Janet Esposito has done a tremendous service to those whose potential has been limited by their social anxieties”. -- Cathy Lipper, M.S.W., D.C.S.W., Adjunct Professor, Western Connecticut State University.

“Self-expression is the most basic of human needs. Some of us, however, become paralyzed by anxiety and fears and are unable to communicate or perform effectively in public settings. Janet Esposito's book can help readers transform their previous negative experiences into golden new opportunities in sharing themselves through self-expression. A must read for anyone who fears public speaking and performing!” -- Dr. David N. Greenfield, Author of "Virtual Addiction: Help for Netheads, Cyberfreaks, and Those Who Love Them", CEO, The Center for Internet Studies, President, The Connecticut Psychological Association

Product Description:
In The SpotLight: Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Performing is a perfect book for those who are afraid of speaking or performing in front of others. This book provides many different methods and strategies to help you get beyond stage fright and learn to speak or perform with ease and confidence. This book will also help anyone who is self-conscious and uncomfortable in any social situation.
You will discover how to:
* Dramatically decrease your feelings of fear, discomfort, and loss of control associated with speaking or performing in front of others

* Minimize your uncomfortable physical symptoms associated with fear

* Significantly reduce the dread of anticipating a speaking or performing event

* Eliminate your need to avoid situations of speaking or performing because of fear

* Create a relaxed and confident state of mind and body in preparing to speak or perform

* Break through your fear and create an inner peace around speaking and performing that you never imagined possible!

Sample Customers’ Reviews:
“Fear of public speaking has been an enormous thorn in my side my entire adult life. Even when I haven't had to directly confront it for long stretches of time, thanks to my genius for avoidance behavior, it's always nagged at the back of my mind. I always knew I was basically well-adjusted, give or take a quirk or two, but, because of this seemingly insurmountable interior obstacle, this hidden limitation I told myself I couldn't get over, a small part of me clung to the idea that there might be something seriously wrong with me. If I gave a public presentation, I reasoned, the secret would be out; the world would know once and for all that I was "certifiable." Rejection, alienation and who knew what other horrible social tortures would befall me? Then I read Janet Esposito's book …. I've read a fair number of books on social phobia, shyness and so on, and Esposito's is, in my opinion, far and away the best of the bunch. Not only is it the only one that nails the bull’s eye on this specific fear, but it's also a joy to read - conversational, yet authoritative; concise, yet comprehensive. If you feel like you're going to die at the very thought of public speaking or performing, get this book, go to the workshop [URL] and choose a new way to live instead.”

“I agree with the many raves posted. In my opinion, this book is, hands-down, the most practical and helpful when it comes to actively overcoming a fear of public speaking--and I have read them all! I did take Janet's workshop, but I found the book very helpful even before taking her class. Anyone trying to overcome any of life's obstacles knows that there is no "magic pill"; Janet's strategy is no exception to that rule. But there are definitely shortcuts, and modeling yourself on people who have overcome a similar problem not only makes the process faster, but also gives the comfort of knowing that you're not alone--there are MANY otherwise competent and stable individuals who suffer from performance anxiety. If you suffer from performance anxiety, do yourself a big favor and read this book. Go the next step and visit Janet's web site at www.performanceanxiety.com. And if you really want to overcome your fear, take her workshop. It changed my life.”

“Since I don't have a terrible 'fear' of speaking in public, but instead just get a bit nervous, I did not find this book useful. If you experience panic attacks at the thought of speaking in public, then this book is well-suited for you.”

Click here for a preview, and check Amazon.com for additional Readers’ Comments before you make a purchase decision.


B.     Some Useful Websites:

  Google: Search using terms such as “Presentation skills”, “oral presentation”, “PowerPoint presentation”, and you will get a large number of websites, some of them are quite informative:

•  Scientifically speaking: tips for preparing and delivering scientific talks and using visual aids. This is an article came from, yes, the Office of Naval Research. It offers excellent advice, like “Assessing the audience”, “Death (or worse) to those who run overtime”, “How to deal with questions”.

  Scientific Presentation Skills: PowerPoint Presentation: This provides good advice about how to make a good PowerPoint presentation.

  Planning a Scientific Presentation: This puff file covers the presentation basics and an interesting list of How to Give a Bad Talk.

  Presentation-Pointers: This site provides a rich collection of succinct articles, by multiple authors, on a wide range of topics that are grouped under several major headings including: Communicating Effectively: Articles include the art of communicating effectively. This article is fun to read and offers many useful hints, such as “The rule of teller”, “The naked audience”, and “Snoring is a bad sign”. Other articles include Ten fatal flaws frequently found from the podium, How to deal with a hostile audience.
Building a Presentation: Repetition=Retention, Prepare any presentation in ten minutes, Elements of an effective speech, Designing an Influential Presentation.
Planning a Presentation: Overcoming the fear of speaking, 21 tips for spellbinding speeches, Preparing a presentation, Presentation skills for the ‘unprofessional speaker’, Speech preparation as a process, 4 ways to remember material.

  Presentation Zen: This ‘newsletter’ style website analyzes the videotapes of oral presentations, from famous figures such as Bill Gates and Al Gore, in terms of presentation skills. Very entertaining and educational. Highly recommended.

  Speaking about Presenting: A useful site offering links to many articles and websites dealing with How to make an effective presentation, How to create PowerPoint slides, how to give an effective presentation, How to overcome the fear of public speaking, and How to manage the audience.

  The 10 Most Common Presentation Mistakes: Avoid These Predictable Presentation Mistakes.

  10 Tips on Becoming a Better Presenter: Improve Your Presentation Skills and Be a Better Presenter.

  Oral Presentation Advice: Mark Hill, Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

  How to give a good research talk: Simon L Peyton Jones, John Hughes, and John Launchbury, Department of Computing Science, University of Glasgow, G12 8QQ Scotland.

  Photoshop For Beginners: 6 techniques to extract anything from its background by Sebastiano.

  Public Speaking: Get 'em On Stage.

  Tips for adding sound and video to PowerPoint 2007 presentations.

C.    Videos

Search the Google Videos or Bing Videos using terms such as “Power Point Presentations”, combined with if you like terms like “skills” or “tips”, and you will come up with many videos some of which are quite informative and even funny.

  Killer Presentation Skills (JD Jefferys, 7 mins).

  The Art of Presentation (Garr Reynolds, 1hr 12 min, 200,000 views).

  No more boring data (Hans Rosling, a TED talk, 322000 views; an extremely exciting oral presentation).

  Presentation Skills – Death by PowerPoint (M Brody, 7 min, 1700 views).

  Eight PowerPoint Presentation Tips! (YourBusinessChannel, 3 min, 37,000 views).

  Present Like Steve Jobs (BNETvideo, 7 min, 371,000 views).

  How NOT to Use PowerPoint (comedian Don McMillan, a funny PowerPoint presentation about how not to make your slides; 140,000 views).

  Presentation Skills & Communication Training (This is a professional training session by Joel Hochberger, founder of Effective Presentations Inc. showing executives and sales reps how to organize and deliver a presentation that is clear, concise, interesting, and effective. 5 min, 60,000 views).

  Effective Presentation Skills: Pausing and Speaking Pace (This the second video clip the Joel Hochberger presentation).

  How to Give a Knockout Presentation (Diane DiResta talked about the importance of body language and first impression).

  Public Speaking/Presentation Skills Keynote with Robert Graham - Robert Graham (www.grahamcomm.net) teaches the fundamentals of great public speaking and presentation skills.