Behind the emerging markets and increased growth in the environmental sector lies a great deal of research supporting these new developments. A portion of many environmental professions may involve communicating research findings or key information with effective presentations. Even within an industry as technical as the environmental sector, these types of “soft skills” can make or break a successful career.
A great presentation can all come down to the groundwork. It’s important to plan ahead and be prepared (even for the most senior professionals). Industry experts can provide helpful insight into the keys for creating an engaging research presentation.
With extensive experience in presenting key environmental labour market research, Shauna Moscovich, Senior Manager of Labour Market Information at ECO Canada, offers great advice to help narrow down presentation content: “Tie all of the findings and information back to the objectives of the research,” she says. “There was a reason for doing the research in the first place, so make sure you answer those questions in your presentation first.”
In a research presentation organization is everything. Commit to the main messages you want to deliver and focus your presentation around them. In her presentation “Giving a Scientific Talk,” Stephanie Pfirman (Ph.D.), Professor of Environmental and Applied Sciences at Columbia University, recommends that you “say what you are going to say, say it, then say what you said. Don’t try to build suspense and then unveil a surprise ending,” she notes.
These additional tips will help to create an engaging presentation:
• Incorporate meaningful visuals into your presentations. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Graphs or charts are a great way to highlight key information. Just like the rest of your presentation, figures should be clear, uncluttered, and understandable.
• The way you communicate is just as important as the materials you have prepared. “Talk to the findings and issues represented in each slide—don’t read the slide,” says Moscovich. “Get the audience involved. For example, ask them what they think the finding will be before showing them the findings slide. Or, create a brief action planning session after the presentation to stimulate discussion about what business decisions need to be made.”
• The key to an engaging presentation is clarity. As the researcher, you understand the information inside and out, but your audience may not. Ensure that you present the information in a clear and straightforward manner, avoiding technical jargon if not everyone will understand it. Include key findings in a clear and concise manner. The audience shouldn’t have to work hard to decipher the information.
• Conclude the presentation with a description of “next steps”—what lies ahead for the project, or the impact of the research on your organization. “The most important messages are those that can most impact the business decisions for which the research was conducted—how do the findings impact the action that needs to be taken?” says Moscovich.
• Have something to offer the audience after the presentation should they request additional information, such as a detailed report you can forward on, a copy of the presentation, or a URL to visit for more information.
There are many points to take into account when presenting research information to an audience, whether they are clients or your own employer. Practicing will help to boost your confidence and may also help you catch any of those last minute errors.
Keep in mind these Do's and Don'ts to ensure your presentation is top-notch:
• Try not to hide behind your presentation materials—speak to the audience
• Avoid presenting unnecessary information
• Don’t clutter up your presentation slides
• Give acknowledgements and credit to those involved (co-workers, funding, institutions)
• Practice! Practice! Practice!
• Always dress to impress