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Creating Thought Provoking Presentations at the 2017 Siegman School

Maria Pawliszewska, Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, Poland

Writing articles and giving presentations is the essence of scientific work. To make science is to communicate our findings to our peers and the public. But how do we do it in an efficient, understandable and friendly manner? This is a serious problem that a lot of scientists, young and old, struggle with. At the Siegman School on Lasers this year, in León, México, we had the opportunity to attend Jean-luc Doumont’s presentations on 'Structuring your Research Paper' and 'Making the Most of your Presentation'. Doumont’s presence as a speaker at the summer school was more than relevant, since he had finished his PhD under the supervision of Anthony Siegman! This made most of the audience interested even before he started his formal presentation. It is also not that common to hear a laser scientist talk about soft skills.
            The first lecture, focused on writing understandable and accurate articles, included simple pieces of advice that can be easily adopted into one’s writing routine. He provided sets of questions to ask before even typing the first word, a detailed schematic of a paper you can fill out every time you start writing and even remarks on constructing sentences and entire paragraphs – it was all there! If you want to improve your writing practice, it might be a good idea to have a look at summaries that Doumont has made available through his website: Doumont also included examples of ridiculously long and knotty sentences taken from real, published articles. It made us laugh when he presented them to us, but it is no laughing matter when you have to read such unfriendly-written papers during your scientific work.
            The second lecture was on giving presentations. It was very amusing, because everything that Doumont talked about was demonstrated by him during the talk. When he discussed clean, distraction free slides, you realized that all of his slides were following the same pattern and included only the most important information. When he mentioned effective redundancy for a second time, you realized that he has just repeated the crucial part of the message he had to give. This is why the talk was very convincing – what was said, was done – and you could see for yourself that it works!
            Although both presentations lived up to my expectations, I left the lectures with a little sense of guilt. Guilt caused by all these imperfect figure captions and overly complicated sentences I have written in my life. On the other hand, I was excited to apply the information Doumont shared to the paper I am currently writing. I hope that you will get the chance to hear him speak and follow these rules as well!
Maria Pawliszewska
PhD student at Wroclaw Univ. of Science and Technology, Poland
Participant of the 2017 Siegman International School on Lasers
Image for keeping the session alive