How to Give an A+ Presentation in Seminar

In almost every seminar I’ve taken at Princeton, one of the main assignments has been a weekly student presentation. The professor typically passes a syllabus around the room and asks each student to choose a week or two to present. The structure of these presentations will vary, but I’ve collected some tips for how to prepare an A+ class presentation:

Make sure you understand your professor’s expectations. How long is the presentation supposed to be? Are you expected to lead the whole class discussion or just introduce the readings? What types of information do they want you to provide: Background for the readings? Summary of the arguments? Your own analysis? It can help to schedule a meeting with your professor the week before you present to review these expectations and receive some personalized guidance. If you’re brave enough, consider asking these questions in class on the first day so your classmates can also benefit!

Last week, I gave a presentation on the nineteenth-century warrior Black Hawk for my Native American History class. Meeting with my professor a few days before made the whole process so much easier.

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How to Make a Successful Research Presentation

Turning a research paper into a visual presentation is difficult; there are pitfalls, and navigating the path to a brief, informative presentation takes time and practice. As a TA for GEO/WRI 201: Methods in Data Analysis & Scientific Writing this past fall, I saw how this process works from an instructor’s standpoint. I’ve presented my own research before, but helping others present theirs taught me a bit more about the process. Here are some tips I learned that may help you with your next research presentation:

More is more

In general, your presentation will always benefit from more practice, more feedback, and more revision. By practicing in front of friends, you can get comfortable with presenting your work while receiving feedback. It is hard to know how to revise your presentation if you never practice. If you are presenting to a general audience, getting feedback from someone outside of your discipline is crucial. Terms and ideas that seem intuitive to you may be completely foreign to someone else, and your well-crafted presentation could fall flat.

Less is more

Limit the scope of your presentation, the number of slides, and the text on each slide. In my experience, text works well for organizing slides, orienting the audience to key terms, and annotating important figures–not for explaining complex ideas. Having fewer slides is usually better as well. In general, about one slide per minute of presentation is an appropriate budget. Too many slides is usually a sign that your topic is too broad.

GEO/WRI 201 teacher Amanda Irwin Wilkins introduced me to the iceberg analogy: like the iceberg, the vast majority of research stays ‘beneath the water’; only a select portion is visible to audiences. Achieving this balance is not easy. It can be frustrating to present only a fraction of your work and difficult to identify which aspects belong above water. But in the end, you want to be presenting with the happy penguins on top of the ice, not flailing in the water.

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How to Get to Know Your Department

Every department offers wonderful opportunities. For instance, departments offer seminars, special lectures, opportunities for internships or grants, study abroad programs, amongst other things. But to take advantage of these opportunities, it is important to know your department well. As a sophomore, one of the biggest challenges for me this year has been familiarizing myself with my own department, chemical and biological engineering (CBE).

In this post, I will provide some tips on how to get to know your department by describing how I engaged with CBE.

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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Conference?

Nothing beats an academic conference in sunny Las Vegas!
Nothing beats an academic conference in sunny Las Vegas!

I am writing this blog while simultaneously unpacking my suitcase from one of the most eventful weekends of my Princeton career. Where did I go, you ask? Well, this weekend I flew to Las Vegas, Nevada, where I presented a research poster at the annual conference for the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics!

Traveling to attend academic conferences is one of the many perks of being a researcher, and student researchers are no exception. These conferences allow you to expand your understanding of your field or related fields and network with people from around the world. While many students conduct research during their time at Princeton, however, the opportunity to attend and present at an academic conference seems almost illusory. If hectic class schedules and large conference registration fees aren’t enough of a deterrent, the fear of being inadequate/unprepared can quell even the most hopeful Princetonians from submitting their research abstracts to conference committees.

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