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Conference Presentation Dos and Don’ts for Scientists

Conference Dos and Don'ts

Meet Dr. Smart.

Dr. Smart is a terrific scientist who’s making exciting discoveries to advance her field of research.

She knows her stuff. But unfortunately, like many scientists, Dr. Smart struggles with the fear of presenting her research before a large conference room of people.

She stands up and goes red behind the ears. Her palms start to sweat, and her heart hammers in her chest. And let’s not forget the butterflies in the pit of her stomach. When she starts to speak, her voice cracks like a 12-year-old schoolgirl. And all she can think about is how much she longs for the sweet solace of her hotel room.

Of course, Dr. Smart eventually pulls it together. But even then, she’s unsure of how to best present her data. She doesn’t want to present too little, lest she leave the audience wanting more. And she doesn’t want to present too much, lest they fall asleep in their seats.

Can you relate even a little? If so, keep reading to discover the Dos and Don’ts of conference presentations.

Jerry Seinfeld quote

But wait, why attend conferences in the first place?

You may be wondering why conference presentations are still a thing. I mean, it’s 2017 after all, can’t you just put together a solid digital strategy and avoid conferences altogether?

Well, yes and no. There’s no denying you need a strong digital presence. But nothing beats public speaking when it comes to really getting your message across and connecting with your audience. Also, the face-to-face networking opportunities that conferences provide are just too good to miss.

For these reasons and others, we must go forth on our pilgrimages to cities near and far to spend time mingling with our fellow peers over bad coffee and dry bagels. It’s what we do.

Here’s the thing. . . conferences are here to stay, so we should learn how to master them and get the most bang for our buck with our attendance.

If you want to be remembered for your groundbreaking research, and not for the way you passed out at the lectern, simply apply these tips and tricks and start presenting like a pro!


1) Tell a story. Once upon a time. . . Hook the audience right away by bringing them along on your journey of discovery. Also, sprinkle in personal anecdotes to help break up the hard science.

2) Practice, practice, practice. Successful presentations require time, energy and several rehearsals. Here’s a pro-tip: If you refuse to practice until you get it right, at least practice until you can’t get it wrong.

3) Use humour. Bring your presentation to the next level by injecting some well-timed comic relief. Try to make it personal and even add some self-deprecating humour. A miserably-failed experiment makes for an entertaining story!

4) Use text sparingly and simple visuals. Power Point slides are only meant to support and augment your presentation, you should never let them become sole center of focus. Simplicity in your slides will help keep the attention of your audience. Remember, less is more!

5) Positive body language. Stand confident with a smile, and try your best to maintain an upbeat energy throughout your presentation. Also, remember to establish eye contact with the audience members. This will keep them engaged and will inspire their confidence in you.

6) Embed a short video. This adds variety and will make your presentation more memorable. And, at the end of your presentation, you should share the video on social media so your audience can start a social media frenzy to amplify the reach of your message.

7) Dress the part. Your audience subconsciously forms an opinion about you the moment you step on stage. Give yourself a leg up by dressing sharp and being well-groomed. Nail that positive first-impression, and earn the respect of your audience.


1) Don’t read directly from your slides. Remember, you don’t want your slides to steal the show. If you do, you’re essentially saying that your slides are more important than you. Which they aren’t. This also makes for a boring presentation. Face the audience and keep that eye contact!

2) Don’t include too much text. By keeping your slides short and concise, the audience will quickly take away the key points and keep the focus on you.

3) Don’t show big tables or more than one graph per slide. This can get confusing quick, as the audience won’t be sure where they should be looking. If you have multiple graphs, put them on separate slides to ensure they’re readable from a distance and not overwhelming.

4) Don’t slouch and cross your arms. Be intentional with your body language. Most of your message is communicated nonverbally, so stand tall and confident. You’re proud of your research. . . make sure your body language reflects it.

5) Don’t talk so fast. Pause, breathe and slow down. It’s a normal response to talk faster when the adrenalin starts pumping. However, your audience still listens at a normal speed. Keeping a relaxed pace will make you look confident and will allow your message to truly stick.

6) Don’t speak in a monotone voice. If you take the Ben Stein approach, you’ll likely cause your audience to zone out which could ruin your entire presentation. Speak with a variety of tones and inflections to keep your audience engaged.

7) Don’t hide behind the lectern. These days we have wonderful wireless clickers and microphones. Use them! This will allow you to walk around with confidence and own the stage. Remember, the name of the game is keeping the attention of your audience and delivering the goods.

After learning these do’s and don’ts, Dr Smart was able to effectively prepare for her conference presentation. She kept her nerves under control, and she presented her research with confidence. As a result, she impressed her audience, and they went away with a much better understanding of the developments in her field of research.

So don’t bore your audience and let your research go unnoticed. Instead, follow in Dr. Smart’s footsteps and start giving conference presentations like a pro!


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