Wednesday, December 31, 2008

101st Post!

I just noticed that this is my 101st post. How exciting!!! However, that is not why I am posting. I am posting to, as usual, regurgitate random thoughts to the Inter-Net.

Christmas Haul

I gots some really cool shiz for Christmas this year, including a Panasonic DMC-FZ28 camera. Seriously, this camera is THE BOMB. I know myself - I don't really need a DSLR. Beside, with a DSLR I'd just have to buy lenses, and more lenses, and more lenses. Instead, I went 80% of the way with this camera in terms of manual knobs and lens quality, very flexible but not overkill for me. I seriously love this camera.

Ipod Shuffle - I haven't used an iPod for several years now, not since my first and last iPod decided to hold charge for only 30 minutes before dying. But now I have a shuffle and I ahve been dancing around the house like a maniac. This has both good and bad side effects. The good side effect is I am actually getting some semblance of exercise. Seriously, I am dancing until I am out of breath because I am a dancing machine. The bad side effect is that I am realizing that my lack of running over the last several months has put my cardiovascular system and general musculature into a tizzy and I am now extremely out of shape. Seriously. Maybe I can get back into shape by dancing like a maniac for the next few months. I'm loving it.

Some North Face Clothes. As mentioned previously, I am a fan. So I am happy.


I am giving an invited talk soon and I am basically falling all over myself in nervousness to get knock their socks off, which I think I can do. Working on this talk has made me think about the little meta-aspects of a talk that many people don't think about. Not *you guys* of course, but I've seen many people give talks that totally break these rules.

Obviously, first and foremost you have to have DATA. That's what I've been stressing like crazy about lately - my lack of data. However, it has finally come through as I expected and I can move on to constructing a fucking badass talk. But assuming you have good data, you can still have a bad presentation. Here's how to avoid that.

Once you have your data, is it ok to just throw up some graphs and ask people to worship your numbers? NO. It's not.

The first thing to think about is what your motivations are for doing the research you're doing and present them convincingly. If you can't convince your audience that what you are trying to do is worthwhile, they will tune out of your talk from the get-go. Now, it can be hard to step back and think about why your work might be important to a general audience because you've been buried in it for a long time - obviously you think it's important. But if you knew nothing about what you're doing, would you immediately think it was cool? If so, then awesome. If not - you better make a kickass slide that convinces people to hang onto your every word.

Next is the storyline - you need a story arc. Starting first with your motivation, then a description of how you approached the problem, then some methodological slides explaining what you've done, and then your results. No one wants to just see graphs on the 3rd slide and hear readouts of percentages.

Finally your results - are they readable? Are your axes clearly labeled? Could a freshman in college at least figure out what you are plotting, even if they don't know what it means? Have you thought about the best way to convey what you want to convey? Should you have done this in line graph form, bar graph form, scatter graph form? What are your axes ranging from? What's better, higher numbers or lower numbers? Are they normalized to a particular value, and if so, what is it? Never assume your audience knows the audience magically knows the answers to these questions.

What are your font sizes? Are you absolutely sure you have nothing smaller than size 18 on your slides?

Are you confident? Have you practiced? Do you have page numbers on all your slides? Is your title page appropriately done (title of talk, your name, your institutation, date)?

In the end, what you absolutely have to know is what the most important points are and why they important. And this has to come through. And a good rule of thumb is this: Audiences really can't take in that much information at a time, so it's never a bad idea to tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, tell 'em what you're telling 'em, and then tell 'em what you just told 'em.

These are all little things that need to be done prior to giving a talk. They might not be as important as having beautiful data, but they are very very important once you have your data in place.

Now - wish me luck as I try to knock some serious socks off with my talk.


Ambivalent Academic said...

Hey! Happy New Year!

Have you checked out Arlenna's post at ChemicalBiLOLogy regarding how to structure a good talk? I'm too lazy (and tipsy) to try to find and post the link...but you can find her site on my blogroll and shouldn't take too much searching to find the post.

It will knock your socks off. As will your talk. :) Let us know how it goes!

Ambivalent Academic said...

Here it is:

Not so lazy/tipsy as i thought...have to get to work on that.

PhizzleDizzle said...

Hey thanks!!! I'll check it out. I'm sure it's more organized and better than mine. What better way to talk about how to give a good talk than to write a bad blog post about it? Haha :). I'll check hers out, thank you!! I need all the help I can get.

ScientistMother said...

those are some excellent tips!

Silver Fox said...

Congrats! - and those are some great presentation rules. Especially about making sure the font is Way Big.

Transient Theorist said...

I'm a big fan of the "as little text as feasibly possible" rule of thumb too. I know when I'm in the audience I can do one of two things - read a slide, or pay attention to a speaker. Having little text makes me more likely to pay attention to what the presenter is saying, which is more fun, and often more enlightening :-) It takes more preparation as a speaker, since you have to know and remember what you wanted to say for each slide, without text to remind you. Seems to be my style though... lots of pictures, haha! Good luck!

Happy New Year, also.

Hermitage said...

I knew a person who did a running man pop quizathon after every section of her talk. She was absolutely hilarious and it was always fun and I ALWAYS remembered what her talks were about. But I don't think I'm badass enough to do it in my own talks. That is all.

PhysioProf said...

That's great advice, although I'm not sure I understand why it makes any fucking difference whether you have page numbers on your slides. I have posted on this topic in the past, for those who are interested:

Good luck!!

PhizzleDizzle said...

Thanks CPP I'll definitely take a look.

As for page numbers, my advisor is a stickler for those. Apparently it makes questions and critiques easier (i.e. audience member: "can you go back to slide 13?".) I've been to many a practice talk too where he's just got a list of slide numbers to fix in his notes.

So in the end my opinion is it can be helpful and is not a pain in the ass so I just do it.