Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Presenting Research

(Swift, 1992, p. 53)
A while ago, Mehadi Altiye asked a question on Quora (18 January 2016), asking how to present a review paper using PowerPoint, which I came across while searching online for something else. I was intrigued by the question, as I had never stopped to think about how a review paper and a research paper are structured differently.

This only generated two answers, but both contained some useful advice. Echo Rivera and Jane Adelmann suggested that Mehadi picked out the main points; used visuals and avoided animations. Echo Rivera also suggested that Mehadi followed the structure of the paper: an interesting point which may or may not get in the way of addressing the key points consolidated in the literature.

In addition, Jane Adelmann suggested the use of bullet points to structure information and to minimise slide text, reminding Mehadi that these would make it easier for the audience to be on message. She also suggested a practice run with peers to fine-tune before the presentation proper.

What was interesting was what was missing. I would have emphasised that the PowerPoint deck only supports what we say: it is not what we say. The slide deck is the backing singers which emphasises our key points, underscores what is important, and harmonises with the story we are telling.

I would have suggested that our script does note equal our slide, illustrated by Tufte’s slide word limit, which is no more than 40 words per slide to keep the deck message stripped back to its essentials (2003, p. 12). We need to tell the elements of the story ourselves. The backing singers – our slide deck – should have a limited repertoire so the focus stays on the story teller.  I would also have mentioned timing: as every slide – in my experience – takes around two minutes to deliver, we need to arrange our presentation to slightly underfill our time slot so there is time for questions.

Do we even want to use text at all? I know a lecturer who only uses images on her slide deck, pecha kucha style. It is a powerful and very clear way to convey a message, regardless of whether a presentation is on a review paper or not. That too is something important to consider. 

Man is a story-telling animal, and that is what, in my opinion is THE most important thing: to clearly tell our story.



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