Effective Presentations

By Kimberly Reichel, OSA Early Career Professional and OSA Ambassador, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerc


Outline of an ideal talk with a skewed hourglass shape starting broad, narrowing in to your specific topic, then expanding back out to connect your work to the bigger picture.

Designed by Kimberly Reichel.

Presentations are not just great opportunities to explain your results to a broader community, but also moments for you to get in touch again with the big picture of your work, to consolidate your own thoughts, and perhaps to make new realizations. These events are also important social occasions for networking, learning about new areas of research, and establishing new collaborations. Presenting yourself and your work in the best way is crucial, but effectively communicating your work is a separate skill besides the expertise required to obtain your scientific results. Even experts can get lost in your talk if not articulated correctly. Explaining only what you did is not enough. People need to be convinced of why you did something before they give credit to the how and what. As humans, stories are what catch our attention, so we should present our work in the form of a story that draws people in and takes them on a journey to the profound results we have discovered. A general picture that can help you communicate in this way is that of a skewed hourglass: start broad and general (why), give context with your methods (how), narrow into your specific contributions (what), and broaden back out to your work’s impact to the bigger picture.

For anyone at any career stage who wants to improve their presentation skills, some tips and suggestions for crafting an effective presentation can be found here. The assumed context is a technical talk with slides. We will explore how to construct the slides, styling recommendations, and advice for preparing to speak. This is a starting set of guidelines that you can adapt to your own style!


Acknowledgments: Thanks to the many training courses that I have participated in at Rice University and Brown University, the 100s of TED talks I've watched (especially Simon Sinek), and to the many peers that together have helped refine each other's skills. Special thanks for contributions from Francesco Vischi, Felipe Beltran-Mejia, Ishan Joshipura, and Janelle Clark. 

For more practical resources, check out the OSA CAREER CALIBRATOR: 



Posted: 7 June 2019 by Kimberly Reichel, OSA Early Career Professional and OSA Ambassador, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerc | with 0 comments

The views expressed by guest contributors to the Discover OSA Blog are not those endorsed by The Optical Society.


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