+44(0)208 9952500 karen.stancombe@lionsdencommunications.com LionsDen Communications Lionsden medical John Clare

Avoiding the 7 Deadly Sins of Scientific Presentations

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I'm John Clare and I've been coaching people all over the world to make scientific presentations from more than 20 years.

You may be reading this because you downloaded my free e-book The 7 Deadly Sins of Scientific Presentations (and how to avoid them). If so, I hope you’ve been putting my tips into practice.  If not, there’s a link to download the book on this page.

For today’s post I want to summarise the sins, and give you one tip for avoiding each:

Sin #1: Too much information

As the presenter, you need to decide what to include, and what to leave out. Go through your presentation and categorize each sequence of information as:

  • Essential
  • Useful
  • Nice to have if we have time
  • Irrelevant
  • Save it for the Q&A

Once you have done that, make sure you have all the essential material, and the useful too, if you have time.  Be a ruthless editor.  Ask a colleague for their views…but make sure they are being honest!

Sin #2:  Ignoring the audience’s needs

Your audience should be the guiding light for your presentation.  Remember the words in the book:

Writing a presentation without having an audience in mind is like
writing a love letter and addressing it ‘To whom it may concern’.

Remember that audiences are a mix of emotional and intellectual… you need to find a way to appeal to both.

The final question to yourself:

  • Why should these people listen to me talking about this now?
  • What does it mean to them, and how will it
  • change their lives/practice/understanding?

Sin #3:    Dense, unclear or confusing slides.

Your talk should be easier to understand with slides than without. If it isn’t, drop them.  Declutter your slides. Ensure they follow a pattern of format, style and colours, and are legible from the back.

When you begin to prepare a new presentation, don’t start with the slides. Start with a piece of paper and work out the story flow.

When you have put the slide deck together, go through it again and ask, ‘What is the point of this slide? Is it up to the job? Could it be clearer?’ If the answer’s yes, you haven’t finished.

Sin #4: Letting your slides run the show

Your slides are an important part of the presentation, but they are not the whole thing.  A great presentation involves synergy between you, your slides and your content.  The slides are a support to your presentation.

Remember: If the words coming out of your mouth are the same as the words on the slides, we don’t need both.  

People don’t come to congresses and meetings to watch you reading slides aloud. You need to add, explain, contextualise, express surprise, elaborate…and point out what’s important on each slide.

Sin #5: No performance element

A good presentation always includes an element of performance. Ask yourself, ‘Why am I presenting this, rather than just sending a memo?’  Part of the answer is that you can be memorable if you present it properly.

Be yourself…everyone else is already taken. You need to look and sound confident and authoritative.

The three elements of a presentation are:

  • Body language
  • Voice
  • Content

You need to pay attention to all three to deliver a great performance.

Sin #6: Boring openings

You only get one chance to make a first impression, so take it. Use a provocative statement or question, or a surprising statistic. Tell a story, start with a quote, or use a prop.  Grab the audience’s interest from the start.  There are examples of great openings in the e-book, and also in my book, Communicating Clearly about Science and Medicine:

http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409440383

Sin #7:  Weak endings

The beginning and end of your presentation are the two most memorable part, so use them both well. End with a bang, not a whimper. Remember the traditional formula:

  • Tell them what you’re going to say
  • Say it
  • Tell them what you said

Last said, longest remembered.

Finally, a bonus sin:

Sin #8: Not putting the tips into practice

As we often say in conversations about patient compliance, the most amazing drug in the world is no good if the patient doesn’t take it. It’s the same with trying to improve your presentations…my tips are useless if you don’t use them.

Please use them… and send me your feedback. I love to hear it.


There is much more on this and similar topics in my book Communicating Clearly about Science and Medicine:

http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409440383

Over the last 20 years I have helped to prepare thousands of scientists, physicians and pharmaceutical executives for major presentations, media interviews and regulatory hearings.

Find out more here: http://www.lionsdencommunications.com

If you have a particular question or a topic you would like me to address, please email me: John.clare@lionsdencommunications.com

If you have colleagues who would benefit from these tips, please send them the link to my free e-book, The 7 Deadly Sins of Scientific Presentations (and how to avoid them).



http://www.lionsdencommunications.com/download-free-book

Thanks for dropping in.

If you have colleagues who would benefit from these tips, please send them the link to my free e-book, The 7 Deadly Sins of Scientific Presentations (and how to avoid them).



http://www.lionsdencommunications.com/download-free-book