Thoughts/tips on presentations and interviews

I am noting down my thoughts as I listen to presentations. Happy to host a session specifically to talk about presentations if so desired. These points will help you in interviews as well.

Your presentation is not just about your work. Your presentation is about you.

Always a good idea to

  • Know your audience
    The presentation is about you and your work. And it is about your audience.

  • Use a narrative tone
    Draw your audience in with a story. Keep coming back to the “story arc that connects your slides” so that your audience doesn’t feel lost at any time. You can use an agenda/outline slide that you share multiple times to show where you are at. If you are doing this, make your outline slide creative!

  • Start by choosing the material you wish to present
    This is an extremely important step. You don’t have to cover all details. You are in control of the narrative. Share the “exciting details”. Focus on your areas of strengths. This is especially important in time bound presentations.

  • Give some though to choosing the style of presentation
    Another extremely important step. Be bold. Maybe use a non-linear style with some back and forth in your story. Be creative. There are many possibilities in a team presentation!

  • Prepare in terms of “phrases” rather than “sentences”
    If you think out a few strong phrases in advance, you can capture your audience’s attention. If you think out full sentences, it feels scripted. If you don’t prepare at all, it is very unlikely that you will do a good presentation.

  • Practice your first and last slides
    Practice the first couple of slides a few times so that you are off to great start, set the tone for your talk. Don’t over practice the middle slides, talk naturally, a few fillers are okay. Prepare your talk for your last slide. Never finish with a mild “and that’s it”. Finish super strong. Very similar to a tennis stroke - rigorous setup, full relaxed when hitting the ball, follow through!

  • Have hooks to reclaim your audience
    When you are doing deep dives into your wok, you may lose your audience on some slides. This is expected but make it easy for your audience to rejoin your narrative.

  • Discuss hurdles
    Do talk about challenges/ issues/ outliers in results, they are a critical component of a narrative.

    • But use a positive tone. “As an interesting extension, we can look at xyz” sounds much better than “We didn’t get time to look at xyz”.
    • Don’t ignore outliers. Say something along the lines of “This outlier in our results is very intriguing and we plan to explore further”. Your audience’s attention is going to be drawn first toward outliers. I believe that is human nature.
  • Smile :slight_smile:
    And use each other’s name in a team presentation!

Avoid

  • Any content that does not resonate with you
    Your audience may latch on to the one statement that you are not super comfortable with. The part that resonates with you gets totally ignored in the Q&A and you have lost the opportunity to shine!

  • Excessive writing on slides
    You want your audience to be listening to you. If you have a lot of writing, your audience will be entirely focused on the writing. They are barely aware of you and what you are saying. Also all writing should either be “readable” or “not readable”. Never anything in between. Your audience should not have to worry about whether you want them to read the writing or not.

  • Moving parts
    This is an absolute no. If your cool gif has a glitch (as happened with a team last time during a time bound presentation), you have lost precious presentation time. If you spend more than 15 seconds fumbling, you have lost your audience. The only exception is if an app or demo is the central piece of your presentation.

  • Excessive use of next slide please
    Decide transition cues within your teams beforehand. And remember it is absolutely fine if the slide transition is slightly out of sync. If you can pull off a presentation without the use of this phrase, you will have achieved a professional presentation.



Take a look at a presentation that I really enjoyed: From Transcriptomics to Therapeutics. Host: Ayush Noori, Researcher, Researcher at Mass General, Freshman at Harvard University

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