Thursday, April 23, 2020

Dos and Don'ts in Academic Presentation

Before reading this article it is suggested to read the previous article on 201 presentation skills (in Bahasa, right-click in Chrome and click translate, to make it in English).

This article is a resume/summary of the book "Conferencing and Presentation" by Michael Guest, particularly on Part IV (chapter 12-16). The book itself is free and can be downloaded from the Springer  Nature website. The following dos and don'ts focus on a practical manner from opening to closing. Before entering this structure, however, formulae to formulaic academic phrases serve is listed as building blocks of academic discourse. These formulae including,
  1. Occupy a mid-point between ‘general English’ and specialist terminology;
  2. Contain constituents that are flexible (i.e., excluded vs. ruled out, possibilities vs. results);
  3. Have cross-disciplinary academic application;
  4. Are utilized in both written and spoken modes;
  5. Hold long-term (intrinsic) value for academics/professionals;
  6. Mark entry or membership into the academic discourse community.
Having those formulaic phrases, Let's start the practical implementation of those phrases in the academic presentation.

1. Opening
  • My name is X, and my presentation is entitled Y. (this and next three are too slight)
  • Hello everyone.
  • My topic today is X. (This and below are too much casual)
  • Today I’m going to present about X.
  • I’ll present on X, OK?
  • OK, so, I’ve just changed the title to show... X.
  • I’m gonna talk about something that is very hot ‘n sexy...
  1. The first of these gambits involves the standard opening move of responding to the chair and/or greeting the audience:
    It is my pleasure to speak/be here today.
    Thank you, Mr./Ms. Chairperson, for your kind introduction.
    Thank you Mr./Ms Chairperson, and good morning/afternoon/evening
  2. Establishing rapport with appeals to share knowledge of a discourse community was also effective:
    As you know/As you can see/As we all know...
  3. Another effective approach involved questioning the established academic
    canon, one that anticipated counterintuitive or surprising findings:
    It is often believed that...
    While prior studies on X have shown...
  4. Rhetorical or research questions that anticipated question-to-answer structures
    were also frequent and effective:
    What are the mechanisms that underlie incidences of X?
    What is the difference between X and Y? More to the point, why are they
    How should we approach the problem of X?
  5. Another effective approach was to offer background information which helped
    situate the presenter and thus better allowed the audience to anticipate current
    In 2013 we began observation on 12 patients who presented with...
    Over the past three years at X hospital, we have been observing...
    Recently, our institution introduced...
  6. Opening by introducing a rationale or purpose provided a strong orientation
    anchor point for those research CPs which followed a traditional structure:
    I’d like to start my presentation by explaining the rationale for the program.
    The data I’m going to present today is based upon...
    In our study, we wanted to determine the correlation between X and Y.
  7. Opening with a conclusion and then working backward to the research question
    and methods can also be a very powerful approach:
    The main cause of X, is not Y but in fact Z.
    We have discovered a new relationship between X and Y.
    There is increasing evidence that...
  8. Often, presenters chose to emphasize either the novelty or newness of the
    contents in the opening:
    This is a simple but alarming topic regarding...
    Recently, X has been reported in relation to X.
    I’m here today to share with you some recent data on...
    For decades there has been broad interest in X.

2. Outlining
Giving an outline of our slide contents on the second page (after the title) is necessary. However, it is best not to explain this page in detail. As stated in the book,
Such slides tend to function best when displayed only for formality’s sake —for about one second—and without any accompanying spoken commentary
Don'ts: Explain the outline page in detail.
Dos: The following example
  • Today I’ll just focus upon X.
  • Let me talk mainly about X.
  • I’m going to start with X. (note that this generally followed immediately after the opening gambit)
  • I’d like to go over X and Y. (often used when explaining research backgrounds)
  • Today I’d like to focus upon X. (used to emphasize a specific research area or scope)
  • Let me talk about (some specific area or point).
  • This is how I will be proceeding today. (while gesturing to the screen and following with a short silence to allow the audience to absorb the accompanying graphic)
  • First, let me go over our research methods.
  • The purpose of this study was to...
  • Let me explain our methods. First we did X followed by Y.
  • First of all we have/had to consider X
  • In order to find out why X, we...
  • We’ll focus on the question why.
  • Because it is important to identify X., we...
3. Transition Phrase
Don'ts: Overuse of  ‘so’, ‘next’, ‘then’ and ‘but’.
Dos: Following forms and patterns:

  • Following this/that... (explicit time sequencing)
  • It is important to note... (highlighting)
  • Let me expand on that...
  • Looking at this in more detail... (expansion/extension)
  • Getting back to our main point... (an anaphoric—going back — reference), and
  • I’ll come back to that, the reason as to why X occurred (a cataphoric—forward-looking—reference)
  • OK, so where does that leave us? (summarization)
  • What we learned/discovered/found/don’t understand is... (pseudo-cleft structure)
4. Closing
  • ‘I think’—especially when used as an appendage to an utterance: This should lead to an increase in the use of X. I think.
  • 'Maybe,’ when used in a summary or concluding point: So maybe the reason for the complication was the presence of Y.

  • So, in summary... (not, ‘My summary is...’)
  • Ok. So, what have we discovered/learned?
  • So, what we can conclude is...
  • In conclusion, we feel/believe...
  • These outcomes/objectives... (here the speaker is using a category term other than ‘summary’ or ‘conclusion’)
  • So here’s a summary of our findings.
  • What I can say from my study is... (so-called wh-clefts were frequently used in this section of the CP)
  • And we know that quite well. (this item appeals to the audience-as-peer relationship)
  • As expected, the results were well distributed in terms of X.
  • So this is why we have a small interval here.
  • We don’t know why, but one possibility is...
  • These findings provide us with some clues as to why X...
  • (This finding) was consistent with previous studies.
  • Therefore, more evidence-based X is needed.
  • So, the take-home message is...
  • I’d like to conclude by saying/noting...
  • Before ending my presentation, I’d like to...
  • This is the last slide so I’d like to conclude my talk by...
  • So, the lesson we learned from this is...

In summary, there is a good formula to do everything: the rule of thumb. And this article is intended to share those good practices from the more experienced speaker (the author of the books and his observation subjects). 
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