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New Paper Friday

Giving better talks

Patricia Jones

This week's paper is a departure from the normal format. It is by Katie Langin and is in the Ornithological journal Condor. Langin's paper is entitled: Tell me a story! A plea for more compelling conference presentations. In it she gives advice on how we could all improve our public speaking skills. 

And, but, therefore

The first recommendation that Langin makes, made by others before her as well, is to tell a story. It is important to get the audience hooked and intrigued in the question you are asking before you lose them in data. The recommendation for how to do that is in "and, but, therefore". This format lays out two things that are known about a study system: "frog-eating bats hunt their prey by listening for frog calls and have amazing learning abilities". Then highlight something that is unknown: "but almost nothing is known about their natural history". Finally state what you have done to address this: "therefore we radio-tracked wild bats as they moved from roosting and foraging sites in the wild". (This is not a fabulous example, but one that has been on my mind). 


The next piece of advice is don't try to tell your audience too many things! Pick out a few results (3 max?) that are the most central to your story to tell them about, they can't absorb more than that anyway. 

Memorable conclusion

Langin then advises to wrap up your story with at least a couple of minutes of conclusion. Even if the takeaways and future steps seem obvious, lay them out clearly so your audience doesn't miss them. 

Think of the broad audience

Talk not just to the expert in the room that you want to impress, but try to reach as many people as possible. This will help to spread the word about your research, and the expert will not be disappointed by a simplified story. 

Less text more visuals

Basically try to convert as much text as possible to visuals. Show your predicted outcomes with figures instead of text. Diagrams of methods instead of descriptions, graphs instead of written out results etc. 

Check out her appendix

Langin's paper has a long appendix with lots of helpful hints. Check it out! And see you at ESA!