Saturday, May 21, 2011

Preparing a presentation without slides

On Tuesday I am giving a presentation. That is not breaking news at all, except for the fact that I just have to go and talk for 15 minutes without slides to a non-technical audience.

Here's how I prepared for it:

1. Ask for advice

I went to ask a more experienced staff member for advice, and I was lucky enough to get his preparation sheet of last year.
The useful hints I got were:
- Avoid jargon,
- Point out and show whatever you can to keep the audience's attention,
- Compare to examples and objects from everyday life.

2. What are the important questions to answer?

I tried to imagine what I would be thinking if I'd be walking into a factory or a lab totally unrelated to my field. What came to my mind are the following:
- First of all, where am I?
- Who is working here?
- What are they doing here?
- Why is this research necessary?
- What are these objects?
- How do they work? How do they measure?
- How much time does a test/ a step in the process take?
- What results are obtained so far? What have they learned from this?

3. Mindmap

The first thought I had was to use flash cards and keep these in my hands during the presentation. However, to avoid staring at my cards, I decided I want to go and speak out without any aid except all the material around me in the lab. To have an idea of what I am going to talk about, I sketched up a mindmap based on the questions I came up with previously. Then I started to organize the facts I want to talk about and the ones that I had from last year's presentation around these questions to structures my talk.

4. Practice

If 2 minutes of public speaking requires 1 hour of preparation, I am supposed to roughly spend a work day preparing my talk. I'm planning to go over this several times on Monday, and discuss it in the lab to see if it is accessible enough.

This is the first time I've laid out a presentation around a few basic questions, and a mindmap. I'm quite curious to see how this will work out. What I've learned by preparing this presentation so far, is how easy and effortless mindmapping can be to structure your thoughts to prepare for a presentation.

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