Tomorrow I will be presenting again at the same symposium where I had my first presentation about my research one year ago.
Last year, my presentation wasn’t bad, but there was a lot of room for improvement. I’ve corrected some of last year’s mistakes and wanted to write this out here for myself to see what I’ve learned, to see if I’ll have more to add to this in one year from now, and maybe new PhD students can learn from this too.
1. Prepare ahead
Last year, I had to make my presentation the afternoon before the moment of the presentation. I wasn’t expecting that I would be presenting. I checked the box “I would like to give a presentation” but later on I heard that only 3rd and 4th year PhD students would be presenting. Then, the day before the symposium, I came back to my office in the afternoon, after arriving from a transatlantic flight in the morning. Totally jet-lagged I looked at my mail, to find out that I would be the first one to present. If only I would have had some slides ready (just in case, they always come in useful), if only I would have an idea of an outline…. but no,I had to start from scratch at that very moment, I even had to go and take pictures in the lab. I’ve learned that it is very good to always have something ready, just in case.
2. Know your audience
Last year, I didn’t check to whom I would be speaking. I just assumed everyone out there would be a structural engineer. I didn’t know it would be open to all civil engineers and architects. So I immediately jumped into the core of the problem, with not much introduction. This year, most of my presentation is figures and concepts.
3. Try out to work with a key message
This year, I made a slide with my key message which I will show twice during my presentation. I hope that will make my most important hypothesis clear enough. It’s the first time I try this approach.
4. The importance of the Q&A
Last year I answered some questions too quickly because I thought they were irrelevant. I think the asker was not too happy about that. I promise I won’t do this again, and I promise I’ll try to let the asker finish his or her question before interrupting (very difficult for me).
Alright, now I’ll go back to packing my bag for the symposium. I’m not nervous (yet), which is also an improvement as compared to last year.