Dr Sinclair and Dr Curry share their favourite presenter “crimes” against the audience, and in the process, article one and article two of the universal rights of scientific audiences are drafted.
Image source: Flickr, Author: Docman
Time after time, presenters repeat the same mistake: the title slide is on the screen behind them, they turn towards the screen, read the title, and possibly also read their name (why stop now), then immediately move on to the next slide.
Dear presenter (you don’t mind if I call you dear, do you, for I really care for you), WHY DO YOU DO THAT?
The audience can read; the chairperson can read and has probably already read aloud your name and title anyway; and I have no doubt the audience already know you can read 🙂
The title is there, on the screen, simply because it is also on the conference program, and the participants eager to attend your talk want to make sure they are in the right room when they come in. The title is not meant to be read: it is meant to be explained, to be paraphrased, to be demystified. To prepare for that, simply picture yourself having to explain your title to someone who is not quite an expert. Listen to him or her ask: “So what does it mean?”. That is what you tell the audience while your title slide is displayed. There is no need to even look once at the screen. You want total eye contact with your audience during the whole time your title slide is on the screen.
No reader ever spends much time on the title page of a book, so why should the presenter spend more time on the title slide than it takes to read it? You do not need to spend more than 30 – 45 seconds on the slide, but you definitely cannot spend less than 5 seconds. People in the audience need to reset their attention on you and on your topic as they move from one presenter to another, and that takes time. They need time to look at you, absorb you, move from a neutral to a positive attitude and like you (don’t push it though, they don’t need to love you 🙂 ) and know a little more about your title than its dry condensed word-encoded meaning. Some, usually half of your audience, the non experts, need a little help from you to increase or validate their understanding of your title. They need time to see who else is working on your research or who else is sponsoring you to trust you as an authority on your topic.
Your Title Slide – don’t face it, don’t read it, and don’t rush it.
And you’ll be – more affable, more audible, more credible, and more understandable.
By Jean-luc Lebrun