Connecting Operational Meteorologists in Pursuit of Excellence in Weather Forecasting, Communication and Service
So, the program committee accepted your abstract or you have accepted an invitation to be a keynote speaker! Now what? Obviously, you have to prepare your poster or oral presentation. However, before you do that, why not step back and consider what makes a presentation "Successful."
As with any form of communication, there are several items to keep in mind when preparing your presentation:
Analyze your audience – obviously you'll approach a poster session different than an oral presentation. Consider the background of your audience and the environment in which you will be presenting. NWA Annual Meeting attendees come from diverse backgrounds: college students and faculty, NOAA and other federal and state agency personnel; private weather corporation personnel, broadcast and other media meteorologists and weather enthusiasts, from across the country and often a few from other countries.
Identify your message – you summarized your work when you wrote the abstract. Now, identify the most important points in your abstract and use these as the focus of your presentation. Consider relating your material to this year's meeting theme, if possible. The 2016 theme is "NWA 41st Anniversary - Better Science, Better Communication, Better Results."
Prepare your draft presentation – organize and edit your presentation. Be sure to consider how the presentation will flow when viewed from the audience perspective. Also, avoid trying to cram too much information into the presentation and limit text where possible.
Rehearse your presentation – practice your presentation including rehearsal in front of an audience, if possible. Some find that taping their presentation and then playing it back provides them with great feedback for improving their stage presence, mannerisms, speaking abilities and content.
Get feedback and revise your presentation – use your local audience feedback to better target your presentation. The NWA Professional Development Committee Newsletter Article (Preparing and Delivering an Oral Presentation – Part II) has some good tips for planning your presentation that apply equally to oral and poster sessions.
More specific tips for oral and poster presentations follow:
NWA Annual Meeting oral presentations are typically given a 15-minute slot in the agenda. The allocated length was provided in the acceptance e-mail sent to all presenters. The best presentations run about 12 minutes, which leaves the audience time to ask 2 or 3 questions. Presentations should focus on the main points with the goal of creating interest in the presented research and its conclusions. Audience members who have unanswered questions or desire the details of presented work should find presenters after their presentation. Also, remember that the audience for an oral presentation at a conference is usually more diverse than for a peer-reviewed manuscript in a scientific journal. Presenters need to define terms and avoid technical jargon and acronyms specific to their field of expertise.
Presenters should focus on creating PowerPoint slides that are clear, understandable, and sufficiently convey the intended message. Plan to display each slide for 30 seconds to a minute. Complex figures and messages on slides will require more explanation. Slides should be legible from the back of the room by using appropriate fonts and colors. Slides should not be crowded – use bulleted points rather than paragraphs. Graphs and illustrations should be clean and clearly labeled. Presenters should provide some basic explanation of any graph or illustration during the presentation as well as discussing the significance of the data as they guide the audience through their work. Slides should not be read to the audience.
On the poster room floor, presenters will have space for a poster with a width of up to 8 feet and a height of 4 feet although most end up slightly smaller due to printer limitations. Fonts and colors are just as important here as for oral presentations. Your title should be readable out to a distance of about 10 feet – a character size of at least 1 inch in a bold dark color should be sufficient. The smallest text and graphics on the poster should be clearly visible at least 4 feet away. The North Carolina State University Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources has developed an excellent web site to help guide you through the process of creating your poster.
Poster presenters, remember:
Extended Abstract Templates2015 Extended Abstract Template – Microsoft Word
Presenting scientific results at a meeting is part science, part art, and part salesmanship. There are numerous resources to help you develop these important skills.
Preparing and Delivering an Oral Presentation – Part II from the NWA Professional Development Committee
"Creating Effective Posters" by North Carolina State University Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources
Dazzle 'em with Style page from Ohio State Physics department
Other references can be found on the NWA Professional Development Committee page at http://www.nwas.org/committees/professionaldevelopment/index.php.
Best Student Presentations from last year are noted at http://www.nwas.org/committees/waf/13studentpresentations.php.
Suggestions for next year's presenters are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.