Doing Postgraduate Studies in Australia: How to Improve Your Presentation Skills (Part 4)

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In my last three articles for Indonesia Mengglobal, I have written about potential funding, finding the right supervisors and improving your English. This time, I’d like to share my experiences in doing presentation.

Presentation skill is very crucial for postgraduate research students because they will have a chance to go to several conferences during their studies – talking about their research findings in front of many industrial representatives and academic communities.

The rule of thumb in doing presentation is that your audience must understand the content, either by listening to you or by looking at the slides shown in front of them. The goal is to switch your audience’s attention between you and your slides. For me, I am still learning to speak English as good as first language speakers and therefore, I force myself to make the slides to speak for themselves. Thus, even if the audience does not understand my words, they will be able to look on the slides and know what is being discussed.

The slides that speak for themselves

There are two basic rules that you can follow if you want to make the slides speak for themselves. The first rule is that the texts, pictures or anything you put in there must be clearly visible for everyone. Clearly visible means that the size should be rationally big and the colour should be distinguishable.

The other rule is that you can’t put too much texts as they make the presentation really boring. The trick for this is that you need to write straight to the point.

One difficulty that you may face is when you need explain complex scientific phenomena that you observe in your research. In this case, you may have to put several pictures or signs (e.g. arrow, block diagrams, etc.) within one slide. To optimise this, think of it logically. For example, if there too many pictures within the same slide, people will be tempted to see all of them at the same time and then lose focus to what is being explained.  It will be much better if we can make the pictures appear in sequence (see Figure 1 vs. 2). This can also be done through simple animation function in Microsoft Powerpoint (you can find out more about this in Google).

‘Pocket’ your audiences

Let’s say you have done all the things mentioned above. Thus, the next step is to ‘pocket’ your audience. Pocket your audience means that you’re positioning yourself as one of the audiences and critically think which part of the presentation is not good enough.  I normally look at the following aspects: (1) the overall flow, (2) forgotten or confusing content and (3) information that grab attention. Remember that each has to be judged based on the viewer’s perspective.

As a final touch, you may consider the aesthetic aspect such as the colour or font type selection. This is supposed to be reviewed last after you’re convinced that everything else is good enough. Do not forget that you still need to practice prior to the day you do the presentation.  It’s true; practice makes perfect. What I have explained here are just the fundamentals.  The more often you prepare your presentation, the more you realise that there is always room to improve it.

High quality work that is well-presented means everything for a researcher.  In fact, my work, which was presented in the TMS Annual Meeting 2013 at San Antonio (USA), was chosen as the recipient of the LIGHT METALS SUBJECT AWARD IN BAUXITE & ALUMINA (Figure 3). This is hard to believe as a year before, similar award was given to a research done by the vice president of R&D division in one of world’s biggest mining companies.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to get that international-level award without previously improving my presentation skill. A good presentation skill has also helped me winning several other scholarships/prizes, taking some financial burdens off of me.

Ps. Stay tuned for my next post for Indonesia Mengglobal as financial hardship is what I want to discuss next!

 

Photos are supplied by author.

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Alexander Senaputra
Alexander Senaputra is a metallurgist by training. He got his master and PhD degrees in extractive metallurgist in Australia and is currently working in US as a research metallurgist. He has solid years of industrial experience and the industry he has been working in involves mining, consultancy, chemicals and R&D. He likes to spend his spare time travelling, reading books about mining and metal industry and writing articles about similar subjects for newspapers. Alexander believes that every disadvantage has its own advantage, that’s what brings him this far. If you need to reach him, please send an email to asenaputra@gmail.com.