February 2012 Archives

Presenting with photographs

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In our last class, we talked about the power of photography and the exceptional effectiveness of photographs as visual aids, and this topic will form the core of our next presentation exercise. On February 29, I'd like each of you to give a short (5-minute) presentation on one idea related to your research using only photographs as visual aids.

Each of you should have received an email from me with comments on your Takahashi-style presentation. Included in that email was a list of terms that your audience identified as jargon. In your next presentation, I'd like you to explain what one of your 'jargon' concepts means. If your jargon list was short, please explain another concept that's central to your research subject or theme instead.

I've posted a PDF with slides from last class right here.

Where can you get images?
This exercise also gives you the chance to assemble a library of images related to your research that you'll be able to use later in the course (and beyond). The best source of images is your own photographs, so you might want to use this as an opportunity to take a few pictures of your lab, your research subject or something else that links you and your research topic. Otherwise, I'd recommend visiting Flickr.com and searching for images uploaded under a 'Creative Commons' license.

Other links
I'd encourage you to look through Garr Reynolds' online presentation about the major take-away ideas from John Medina's 'Brain Rules'.

Next class
And finally, a reminder that next class (Feb 22), we will meet on the St. Paul campus and be combined with a communications workshop run through the Institute on the Environment. Go to IonE Seminar Room R380 in the Learning & Environmental Sciences Building.


Imagining your audience

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Yesterday we talked about the importance of understanding our audience, and the challenge of envisaging our research from someone else's perspective. For next class, I'd like each of you to write a brief (300 words or so) biographical sketch of a real audience you may have to face in the future (you can also consider an audience that you've addressed in the past and want to reach more effectively).

In your sketch, try to address the questions we raised in class. What's the setting of your presentation, and who are you addressing? What do they already know about your topic? Are they experts or novices? Where sources do they rely on to get information about your research? What issues are important to them? What preconceptions about your topic or tools that you'll need to fight against?

Please bring printed copies of your sketch to class. We'll exchange them and have a discussion in pairs and after class, I'll ask you to turn them in to me.

Takahashi follow-up

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OK, I'll give you a few more details about your assignment.

Next week, each of you will give a brief presentation using the 'Takahashi method'. I first learned about this approach through a he 'Presentation Zen' blog, which featured a short post about the method and a nice story about its development.

For your version, I'd like you to focus on one important idea related to your research. Because you'll only have 5 minutes to give your presentation, you'll need to select an idea that is sufficiently narrow to be discussed briefly but is also also accessible to non-experts (the rest of us). Please try your best to respect the constraints of the format: one idea, 20 (big) words, 5 minutes.

Finally, I mentioned that using 'standard' fonts can help avoid common formatting problems in PowerPoint or Keynote. You can scroll through a list of 'safe' fonts that are installed on all Windows or Mac machines right here.

Know your audience
Also next week, we'll talk more about understanding our audience. Depending on the occasion, we may end up speaking to people with very different backgrounds or interest in our subject. If we simply give the same presentation to everyone, we'll probably end up missing the mark and be either too technical or too simple. Ken Haemer, who's a retired manager from AT&T put it nicely when he said "...designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it 'to whom it may concern'".

To get ready for that discussion, I'd like to you read two (short) articles that have very different perspectives on the way that scientists (or researchers) communicate.

Preston Manning, 'Communicating effectively with politicians'
Tim Radford, 'Of course scientists can communicate'

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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