Throughout my undergraduate research career, I have found that there has always been a specific emphasis on presentation. I took a class called Speaking of Science, in which we had to practice presenting the same research project to various audiences. I find that a lot of what we learned in that class connects to what we discussed during our fellowship meetings.
When talking to a general audience, there are many strategies that can be employed in order to make the presentation more palatable. I think the main one would be to eliminate as much jargon as possible. The audience doesn’t want to know that I am studying the Kappa Opioid Receptor, one of three endogenous opioid receptors – instead, they want to know that I am studying the receptor that modulates pain and is activated by opioids. Likewise, the audience doesn’t need to know that the receptor is a G protein-coupled receptor. Instead, they need to know that it is a receptor that leads to a signaling cascade of events, and as a result, can be modulated at many stages. Similarly, the use of imagery is so important in these presentations as well. It is important to simplify complicated graphs, and to highlight the key elements of the graphs. This will make it easier to understand and interpret for an uninformed audience.
The use of rhetoric is also important when presenting to an uninformed audience. I think that conveying emotion, logic, and credibility are crucial for people to understand that your research is valid and important. This way, they may feel more connected to the work being presented, even if they have no understanding of our field. In the class I took, there was a lot of emphasis on minor things, such as body language, eye contact, and pausing between slides. All of these components may seem minute, but the combination of effortlessly incorporating all of these skills into a presentation can make a huge difference.
There are many potential audiences that I could be interacting with outside of my field. When exploring funding, people from that organization may require that members see a presentation first before deciding whether or not they want to fund your project. Some audiences may even be controversial, as we have seen with the controversy surrounding Pitt’s fetal tissue research. In all of these situations, great presentation skills can have huge effects.