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By John Clare, Jun 2, 2015

The 7 Deadly Sins of Scientific Presentations (and how to avoid them)

As ESHRE is approaching, you may be getting your presentations ready. With up to 10,000 people expected to attend, how do you make your talk stand out? By making it memorable, engaging and informative. John Clare has helped thousands of physicians and researchers prepare for presentations just like this. In this blog post he will share his most important tips for how to make your presentation memorable.

Sin number 1: Too much information

You are the expert in your subject. However, the audience are new to much of your data, and can only absorb so much of it during your talk. It’s your responsibility to strike the right balance, so you convey just the right about of new information to enable them to understand and evaluate it, and put it into context. Rehearse it with someone who is not an expert in the subject, and listen to their views. If in doubt, leave it out!

Sin number 2: Ignoring the needs of the audience

Writing a presentation without having an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it ‘To whom it may concern’. Don’t do it!  Put yourself in the audience’s position, and think about what they know, what they are expecting and what key questions they want answered. Here’s the question to ask yourself when you start to prepare your presentation:

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 number 3: Dense, unclear or confusing slides

Slides are an integral part of any data presentation, so it is surprising how often they are unreadable, unclear or just confusing.  This is often because you have put too much information on them. Each slide must play a part in the overall story, and each element on the slide must play its part.  Take a look at your slides and see how much information you can remove without losing anything important.  Your talk should be easier to understand with slides than without them. Otherwise, change them.

Sin number 4: Letting your slides run the show

Your slides are a part of your presentation. But they are not the presentation. Many scientists, so used to relying on information to make their way in the world, almost make themselves invisible when they stand at a podium.  They become a soundtrack to the slides, and read out what the audience can read for themselves.  10,000 physicians and their associates don’t attend ESHRE to watch you reading slides aloud! You need to add to the slides…elaborate, contextualize, explain and comment on them.

Sin number 5: No performance in your presentation

Performance is important…even for scientists!  If all you want to do is read data in a boring monotone, with no audience engagement, just send the data. You need to be memorable for the right reasons. You need to be energetic, lively, in command of the stage, and ready to engage with the audience. The three elements to consider are:

  • Voice
  • Body Language
  • Content

They need to work together to produce a great performance.

Sin number 6: No attention-grabbing opening

You only get one chance to make a first impression…so make sure it’s a good one. When British athlete Linford Christie won the Olympic 100 metre gold medal he dedicated it to his coach with the words, ‘He got me to go from the B of the Bang.’ You need the same attitude. The audience decide very quickly whether you are worth listening to.   Great openers include questions, statistics, surprising facts, bold statements, short but relevant personal anecdotes, quotes or props. Watch any TED talk and you will see a great opening. 

Sin number 7: Weak endings

Too many talks don’t really end, they just stop. Some of them dribble away. Your ending is the last thing your audience hears, so don’t waste it. You can summarise your talk, repeat your key point, draw the strands together, tell them how you answered the question you posed at the start, or pose a new question. Above all, tell them what you want them to do, know or say once they have heard you.  

To learn more you are welcome to download John Clare´s  free e-book  The 7 Deadly Sins of Scientific Presentations (and how to avoid them) here:


Topics: IVF community insights

Written by John Clare

John Clare is an internationally renowned and highly regarded media, communications and crisis consultant. He coaches both medical and business leaders from the pharmaceutical industry and scientific organisations as they prepare for a major presentation, speech or media interview.

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