Making Presentations

The purpose of this page is to provide a resource for how to make a good presentation for a variety of audiences and circumstances.


There are 2 primary considerations that you should know before starting to make any presentation:
  • Who is your audience?
    • There are multiple things to consider about your audience: How much background information is needed, how much animation is needed, how much peripheral information should be presented (ie how much should you go into the 2 weeks that your experiment didn't work before it started working).
  • What do you want to communicate in your presentation?
The answers to the above questions will likely influence stylistic choices you make while actually making your presentation. Which leads to your next consideration:
  • How should you make the presentation?
    • While many alternatives exist for making presentations (keynote, prezi, etc) generally speaking presentations should be made in powerpoint for simplicity, control, options, and portability. The remainder of this page will focus on powerpoint.

Specific examples

Barrick Lab Journal Club

  1. Who is your audience?
    • Your colleagues in the Barrick Lab (obviously).
    • You should expect that everyone has a similar level of knowledge concerning your paper as you did before you read it. Even if they are familiar with a gene/hypothesis/experimental system, they probably need a brief refresher before you jump into details or they will be completely lost and bored. If you had to look something up to understand the paper, odds are most of the lab doesn't know it either. If you find a particular sentence in the introduction very interesting/surprising/controversial when you read the paper, that should likely be mentioned as well.
  2. What do you want to communicate in your presentation?
    • Stick to an overview of the key points that are of wide interest or relevant to ongoing research by yourself and/or your colleagues.
    • The point is NOT to try to explain every experiment that was done in the paper, every method that was used, and all of the implications.
    • This means that, in most cases, you should NOT put every figure, and certainly not every panel, into your presentation. After you finish reading through the paper, its probably a good idea to stop and think of the 1 or 2 most interesting take-home messages. Then, go through the figures and copy the panels that you need to explain those 1-2 things.
  3. How should you make the presentation?
    • The short nature of the presentation (~10-15 minutes), and the relative quick turn around time (2-3 weeks between presentations) make style, animation, and custom design of figures mostly unnecessary. Some spotlight effects (i.e. boxes with no fill in them) added to figures from the paper can help to draw attention to what you want to show.
    • Because of the time constraints, you should not plan on having very many slides. Here's a good general template:
      1. Title slide
        • Include a screen grab of the title of the article you are presenting, the names of the authors of the paper, and the journal it is from.
        • Include your name and date or at least the date.
      2. Motivation / Background
        • In a few bullet points describe the main question the paper set out to answer, the state of the field before the paper, and perhaps other relevant work by the lab behind the paper.
      3. Key findings slide
        • This should include all of the key findings from the paper, including ones that you don't want to cover in any real detail, but use this slide as opportunity to say what you are going to talk about.
      4. Important methods slide (may not always be necessary)
        • Describe new/unusual methods they used to come up with their key findings. Particularly if they were using a method you were not familiar with, used a method you didn't agree with, or if you briefly want to mention something about their methodology and how it affects the statistical power or might bias the findings of their study.
      5. Experimental slides (variable in number, but should limit to 3-5 slides)
        • Each slide should be screen captures from figures or supplementary figures.
        • The title of each slide should be a "bullet point" declaration similar to a figure caption.
        • The slide should be as non-cluttered as you can make it. Think at most 4 panels so you can easily refer to Left/Right or Top/Bottom, or the combinations of the two.
        • If the paper has large multi-panel figures, hide panels that are irrelevant to the points you are discussing, or divide them across pages.
        • If there are panels that are largely confirmatory and tedious (they used a 3rd method to check a result), you can leave these out or summarize the result with a bullet point statement next to the most relevant panel.
        • Ideally, each slide should be used to explain just one of the key findings you've already mentioned.
      6. Criticisms, critiques (if needed)
        • While you should be mentioning as you go through your presentation when there are things that you don't agree with their analysis or were a bad way of doing something, this slide should include those issues as a bullet point
      7. Implications, next steps, conclusions
        • This is a good place to describe any implications of this work for the lab, such as interesting experiments that a new method might enable.
  4. Common mistakes
    • Poor paper choice: Don't choose a paper for Journal Club that is likely to only be interesting to you. That's not the point of Journal Club. Often, the more obscure / specialist the journal, the less likely anyone else is to find the paper interesting. You should run any iffy choices by the lab before you invest time in making a presentation!
    • Inadequate preparation: If you are unable to succinctly explain the main motivation for a paper, methods used, and conclusions, your presentation will be a frustrating experience for everyone. Granted this is Journal Club and you are not expected to be an expert on the work of other labs! but, everyone is counting on you to digest things for them. So, either don't pick a paper on a topic that is entirely foreign to you or put in the time reading other papers or talking to people to gain the necessary background.
    • Going over time: The main point of journal club is keeping the lab aware of the latest research developments. By simply putting your title slide, introduction, and conclusions on the projector you have already mostly accomplished this goal! So, there is no need to belabor every detail in the paper. If someone becomes interested to this level, they are now aware of this paper and can read the details on their own. Going over time is most often caused by putting too many figures / experiments on your slides. It's also often associated with poor paper choice, as a badly written paper is much more difficult to explain than a well-written one.
  5. Resources


  • Daniel Deatherage - general layout, Barrick Lab Journal Club
  • Jeff Barrick

 Barrick Lab  >  ProtocolList  >  ProtocolsMakingPresentations

Topic revision: r3 - 01 Jul 2016 - 15:40:00 - Main.JeffreyBarrick
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