How to Talk the Scientific Talk: Lessons on the Art of Presenting Effectively and Impressively

Kenji Rowel Lim, PhD - February 28, 2023

Read Dr. Lim's recap of How to Structure a Scientific Talk, our recent Professional Development Café. ASGCT members and registrants can watch it for free on demand!

Want to know what makes an awesome presenter? Have a talk coming up, but don’t know how to start preparing for it? Have you ever seen the best talk of your life and wondered, "how can I do that?… can I do that?" Well, you’re in luck! At a recent ASGCT Professional Development Café we learned all this and more from communications consultant Jerry Doyle of CommCore Consulting Group. Doyle’s seminar was a must-see for anyone wanting to get ready for their next presentation, what with the 26th Annual Meeting coming up as fast as a grant deadline.

Doyle covered many points in his seminar, but here were my key takeaways:

  1. Know your audience. Think about what you think your audience knows AND what you think they want to know, then craft your talk accordingly. Think about the questions they’ll probably ask, and prepare for those. Know your audience not only before your talk but also during your talk. Do they look like they’re still following you? When someone is asking you a question, what’s their body language like? Use these cues to adjust your way of presenting as you go, e.g. pace, gestures, and tone of voice.
  2. Keep it simple. Pick three key messages you want your audience to leave with by the end of your talk. Plan to repeat these messages three times throughout the talk to improve retention. As Doyle says, 3x3 = 1 (yes, you read that right) – three messages repeated three times, and chances are the audience will remember at least one of them.
  3. It’s all about attention. In addition to providing quality content, the secret behind a memorable presentation is how well you can hold the audience’s attention throughout the session. Start with a strong opening, use strategic pausing, and try to engage the audience if possible. Keep in mind that voice and body language play a huge role in the delivery of a talk. Also, we’ve all been audience members at some point, so ask yourself: what were the best talks I’ve seen before, and what did the speaker do to keep my attention?

To check out more tips and strategies on how to give an effective scientific talk (how to handle Q&A’s like a pro, how to make a good impression on your audience, examples of strong talk openers, and so on), the session is recorded and available to watch on-demand for free to ASGCT members and event registrants. So, what are you waiting for? Watch/rewatch that seminar now, and go be the best presenter you can be!

Dr. Lim is a postdoctoral reseracher at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of ASGCT's Communications Committee. His research areas of interest include muscular dystrophy, antisense therapy, and gene therapy.

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