How to make people care about your topic: 11+ tips for research presentations

Key Takeaway: Have just 15 to 20 minutes to present your research? These 11 tips by the World Bank's Development Impact blog will speed you to success. I add three more: How to make people care about your topic. Don't apologize. Don't fear color. ​

The World Bank's Development Impact blog is a great resource. They recently posted 11 tips for making short presentations about your research. Don't miss it. Here are three more to expand on their helpful insights:

1. How do you make people care about your topic? Answer this question: If my audience fails to learn X about my topic right here and now, they might miss out on understanding what? Start there. Then, make that your opening. Some call this answering the "so what?" question. So what if I don't understand or learn about your work? What do I lose?

This tip was inspired by the equally valuable presentation identified in this post by economist Jesse Shapiro called "How to Give an Applied Micro Talk: Unauthoritative Notes." But, his slides are really "How to Give a Talk about Your Research." Shapiro's first point is that your audience doesn't care about your topic. You have 1 to 2 slides to get them to care about it. Make those two slides count.

2. Don't apologize for what your work isn't. Unless you've done something that is inconsiderate of your audience, like showing up late, don't apologize. Apologies in presentations are almost always unnecessary and they waste time, I've noticed that they frequently touch on a sense of incompleteness (e.g. if I had more data I would have...). Always put your research in its strongest possible, truthful light. Clarifying limitations is important. But, don't apologize for them. Couch areas that feel incomplete to you in terms of what you will explore in the future.

3. Color? Fear not. I once heard an economist forcefully dismiss the use of color in his slides. "My peers will take me less seriously." I sure hope not.

Color, when used thoughtfully within a good design can enhance your presentation, not diminish it. So can photographs. Communicating visually makes you a human relating to other humans.

Good luck.

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