It’s just not scientific…

Recently I shared ideas with a colleague about presentations and she significantly altered the supportive media (p2) of her upcoming presentation. She was very pleased with her performance and the reception of the presentation by the audience (p cubed) but the feedback from a senior colleague was that, “there are rules that have to be followed when making a scientific presentation” and implied that it was a poor presentation.


I’ve done a fair amount of searching and  what I can find are a series of diktats citing numbers such “30-20-10” or “5-5-5” as means to produce a “scientific” presentation. What I cannot find is evidence that this is effective or that it is “scientific” any more than a white coat denotes a scientist. What does exist is a mountain of evidence that such presentations contravene many simple psychological principles and are thus much less effective than they might be.

Designing a talk around the needs of the audience and a message rather than a list of information is scientifically proven to be a much better way to engage with an audience and have retention of information. Reducing the amount of text on slides and illustrating with appropriate supportive media is scientifically proven to be better than text heavy slides doubling as an handout. Engaging with the audience in the delivery (p3) because the speaker is freed from the restriction of the scripted, bulletpointed list is scientifically proven to improve audience retention of information.

All of this may not look like old fashioned, “scientific” presentations but if it works better because of the science, isn’t it about time we changed our view of what a scientist looks like?


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  1. Pingback: My First Teaching Session - p cubed presentations

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