Friday, May 24, 2013

Ten Commandments for Presenters

Going through some of my old files I had discovered this little gem. I was unable to fine a digital copy of it online and barely a reference to it so I figured I would repost it here for the benefit of any presenters. This is presented verbatim.


Geotimes May 1999

Geologic Column
Ten Commandments for Presenters

By Hugh Hay-Roe

Anyone who has attended even a few earth science society conferences has noticed the range in quality of the presentations. Some papers are a joy to sit through; others can leave you confused, frustrated, or fast asleep. Presentations may fail because the speakers prepare the script as if they were writing a paper for publications. They forget that a paper given orally differs from a published paper in three crucial ways:

A live audience is like a group taking a guided tour - unless they have reviewed the subject in advance, they are totally dependent on the speaker to orient them before they set off. If the speaker fails to do so properly at the outset, the group will soon be lost.

Unlike readers, listeners cannot pause to re-read what they didn't understand. They cannot jump past the dull stuff to get to what interests them, nor go back to find an important point they missed.

Most people take in information better by eye than by ear, so visual aids are crucial. The more complex the subject, the more important it is to have clear visuals.

With those distinctions in mind, here are 10 guidelines for better oral presentations.

1. Define clearly what you wish to accomplish with your presentation. In most instances, your purpose is to inform, but sometimes your primary goal is to persuade. Or you may wish to entertain. Some talks are a combination of these purposes.

2. Write down in concrete specific terms what you offer to your readers (if it's information) or what you want from them (if you are trying to persuade). For example, don't write, "I want to tell them about the Yippahoopy Quadrangle." Write, "I want to tell them that the Yippahoopy Quadrangle is almost certainly the site of a significant meteorite impact during the Early Miocene."

3. Having defined your key ideas, present them at the beginning and - unless the presentation is very short - again at the end.

4. Organize your supporting information in a sequence in which listeners will most likely want it. To do that effectively, you have to know your audience - their technical backgrounds, main interests, and limitations. In the example above, you might present your evidence for the meteorite, offer questions and doubts, describe your field and lab methods, and finally discuss the implications of your findings.

5. Use visual aids that are attractive and highly readable. Never use a visual aid that you have to apologize for. A digital image projector (fed from a laptop or notebook computer and controlled by a "remote mouse") is the most effective projection device.

6. Hold onto your reading material until your talk is finished. The only good handout at the beginning of a presentation is a simple outline, with space between the headings for listeners to take notes.

7. Unless you are speaking in a very large auditorium, eye contact with the audience is important. But even in a vast hall, don't read from a detailed script. If you do, your voice will tend to drop to a monotone, losing its "vocal variety." Use cue cards (or cue yourself from your visuals). And practice! Get feedback from a "guinea pig" audience during dry runs beforehand.

8. Anticipate questions and decide how you'll handle them. Are you going to present anything that is controversial or extremely complex? Some listeners might ask about aspects you did not cover in your talk.

9. If possible, check out the logistics ahead of time - room arrangement, lights and dimmer switches, sound system, visual equipment, and other aids. Find out what assistance will be available, if any. If there is a speakers' breakfast, don't play hooky.

10. If you are the only speaker or if there is no printed program, make sure the emcee knows how you want to be introduced, and has just the information needed to do a good job (including the title of your presentation, if it's a formal talk). A good introduction will establish your credibility with the audience.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Geological Quote of the Week - What is that?

I was reading through a book on chaos theory and geology and I just found this line funny.
"With the help of a technical device called a return map which we shall not attempt to describe..."
i.e., yea, we don't know what it is either.

Goodings, D., 1991, Chaos in a time series, in Middleton, G.V., Ed., Nonlinear dynamics, chaos and fractals with applications to geological systems,Short Course Notes, V. 9: Toronto, Ontario, Geological Association of Canada, p. 35-46.

You can find all of my other Geological Quotes by clicking here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

CBS Sunday Morning - Sinkholes

An interesting report on the ever increasing problem of sinkholes, both geologically and man-made.

And here is the link for those who can't see the video:

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures - Wupatki National Monument

My next post about the Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures is...

You can find more Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures as well as my Geological State Symbols Across America series at my website

The obligatory entrance sign. The park is located on the edge of the San Francisco Volcanic field and the Painted Desert. This means that ancient people within the area likely had to contend with volcanic eruptions, as seen at the nearby Sunset Crater mentioned previously, as well as the arid desert environment.

Here is a distant view of the Wupatki pueblo. Although mostly an archaeological park, there is tons of geology to be seen from all of the rock formations to the desert climate itself. The pueblos are built on top of and out of the Moenkopi Formation. These are sandstones, siltstones, and shales from a Triassic tidal environment (~240 million years old). This means that it was pretty close to the shoreline but also contained floodplain deposits.

Here is a closer view of the Wupatki Pueblo. The rocks in the Moenkopi have a high iron oxide content giving them a strong brown and red color to them.

Here is another of the pueblos, the Citadel Pueblo.

Closer, a little more abstract view of the Citadel Pueblo.

Close up view of the Moenkopi bricks.