It’s .pptx not .docx

A common mistake in attempting to deliver a (scientific) paper is the failure to recognise the difference between a document and a presentation. They are not the same. Perhaps the nomenclature is the start of the problem but an oral presentation is entirely different from simply reading out a truncated version of the written document.

A document, a journal article or scientific report has a required structure and is intended for the recipient to read. That may be overstating the obvious but the presentation is quite the opposite; a presentation is not to be read, neither read by the audience nor read out to them. The construct, the illustration and the delivery are all different.

The story (p1) of the paper for a presentation is concerned with delivering a “so what” of the data. It is not simply enough to recite the facts. The purpose of presentation is an interpretation and explanation of value of the work undertaken.This is the reason the presenter is asked to attend rather than simply send a written version. It is neither a precis nor a summary but an explanation of its purpose and value for that particular audience ultimately with a call to arms, a challenge or a question to leave the audience with. This should lead them to want to review the whole written piece to further their understanding.

The supportive media (p2) to such a presentation is designed to support the speaker and not deliver the whole paper in written form whilst the speaker talks. As such the media should be illustrative and not distracting. It is neither reasonable nor valuable to simply cut and paste data tables into the media as what is required and valuable in a written piece will be uninterpretable and distracting in a presentation. The role of the presenter is to guide the audience to a clearer understanding by the use of media. It is not simply to put all the data on the screen.

The delivery (p3) of this presentation is about engaging the audience. If the presenter shows no care or emotion, why should the audience? If you have no passion about your topic, no-one else will. It may be complex histological staining techniques or reviews of a series of operations but the speaker must engage the audience for the message to be effective. Verbatim reading of a script, with no emotion or intonation, whilst facing the screen, however exciting the research will leave most of the audience uninterested and unconvinced. If this has value it is essential that the speaker shows some of that value.

A presentation is a privilege. It is an opportunity to share ideas, passion and insight. Take it, don’t waste it.


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