Public speaking is not a usual part of the science curriculum, despite the many group meetings and conference presentations that students—and employed scientists!—need to do. Standing and speaking in front of an audience can be overwhelming, even for a naturally good speaker. When I was in high school, I was terrified of presenting, but after attending lots of conferences, making my own presentations, and a year’s membership in the Toastmasters (a communication and leadership development group), I learned that being a good speaker is not difficult, and anyone can learn how to do it. Here are some useful tips that I learned:
- Even if you don’t have a scheduled presentation, it’s never too early to start preparing. Enroll in public speaking classes offered at your university, join Toastmasters, or take some acting classes; you can even invite your friends and have a good time.
- Learn from the best: presentations like TED Talks are great resources, where the experts in a wide variety of fields speak in front of an audience.
- Don’t wait until the last minute. Procrastination limits the amount of time you have to think about what you want to show and say.
- Make your presentation entertaining. An abundance of numerical data is good for technical presentations, but even scientists would rather know the essence of your research or project. Use graphics and organized tables. Don’t go over every number and line. Make clear conclusions.
- After you are done creating the presentation slides, write down what you are actually going to say (every word, even if it’s a conclusion shown on the slide). Memorize and practice it several times with the slides.
- Avoid using “parasite” or “filler” words, for example: ‘um”, “ah”, “like,” or “you know.”
- Find friends and/or colleagues to volunteer as “the audience,” and ask for an honest opinion about your presentation. You can also make a video of yourself, then watch and take notes on what needs to be improved.
- Think about what you are going to wear, and try it on before the big day. Whether professional or casual, it should be appropriate but comfortable. Any distractions can affect your speaking in a negative way.
- Speak confidently and with an even tone. You’ve done your research, and you know what you are talking about—you are there to show it.
Lidiya’s curiosity about “how the life works” led her to complete a Master’s degree in Biology and a PhD in Microbiology. Science gave her more questions than answers and after a few years as a postdoc at the National Institute of Health in Rockville, MD, USA, she decided to pursue her “first” love in writing. Not long after that, she became a mom of a wonderful girl, who is a very energetic toddler now. She loves to travel and has lived in many countries; she is still looking for a place to settle down. Lidiya is thrilled to be a part of the Scientista bloggers team, and loves being able to connect with lots of wonderful young, and already established female scientists, while writing about science, life and everything else.