more questions

More questions on twitter and through email from friends and colleagues about presentations is a great sign of the desire for improvement and higher-order thinking on presentation skills. I want to emphasise that these replies are only my personal opinions, they are not immutable rules. I’ve arrived at them through reading, through practise but influenced by my own cognitive dispositions. My desire in writing this blog and sharing ideas is to challenge the norm and to encourage others to consider more questions on the nature and value of presentations.

how should I manage references?

Basically, any way you want to. Scientific presentations require knowledge and research to be evidence-based. There is no requirement however for those references to be on the screen during a presentation. It is actually more valid to say, “Fisher et al in the seminal paper in 2019 said…” than it is to say, “this paper…” (waves vaguely with laser pointer at the tiny line of text at bottom of slide.) Please, if you are tempted to use superscript, just stop right there. “All the main references will be available at the end of the presentation as a download.” Remember, this is a presentation, not a document.

Check out this QR code or for further explanation.

more questions

what about corporate branding on every slide?

It’s up to you. It doesn’t work and it is visually distracting. Scientific presentations are not business presentations and ultimately the only reason your provenance should make a difference is at the end of your presentation; the message should speak for itself. The insistence of a chief/senior/ boss on branding is often due to their desire to copy bad habits of others. There is little answer to that other than science. It is even more erroneous to suggest that slides should have branding on them so that photos for twitter will show as firstly the icons are too small and more importantly, I believe, a slide should be incomplete without the presenter. Designing slides for twitter misunderstands the purpose of a presentation. Designing for both, misunderstands both.

what about people who don’t agree with the need to change?

What about them? It is a free world and ultimately we all make choices. Those choices should be based on available evidence. There is a huge amount of overlay in making those choices and that must be respected. No one should be forced. The result of those choices is however not about debate. The analogy I use in lectures and workshops is that of The Matrix.

” You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. ”

is this only for scientific presentations?

I don’t think so. The science of why presentations fail is universal. The universal approach in everyone doing exactly the same is not evidence of validity. a presentation whether it is for a business case or a research group needs to have a single identifiable message. Illustration should add to the message not obscure it. The delivery is essential and simply reading out a script hugely devalues that message. It is about effective communication wherever that might be.

It has always been a disappointment that this blog has had little debate in the comments section. Please engage in discussion, ask further questions and share your thoughts. There is no single way to “do” presentations. And that includes timesnewromancentrejustifiedmicrosoftbluewavewithlotsofbulletpoints.


  1. Lisa Hadfield-Law

    I LOVE the idea of using a QR code to access ref list towards the end of a presentation. Thanks for that

    1. ffolliet (Post author)

      Thanks for the comment. Have added to suggestion as to how to do that. Follow the link or scan the code!


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