Dean Kull’s presentation, “A Bad Talk about Giving Good Talks,” was hardly a bad talk. Instead, it was a well-organized presentation that provided helpful tips for successfully planning and giving a talk in any field. It was the first in a series of talks entitled, “Becoming a Faculty Member,” organized by the Graduate Studies Office here at Dartmouth. Dean Kull shared his experiences giving talks, and other audience members also shared, creating a relaxed and open environment.
Dean Kull stressed the importance of planning for your presentation. This preparation involves not only starting in advance, but also making sure that you have your presentation backed up in more than one place. He also stressed the importance of knowing your audience, which may become an issue when presenting across departments or fields of interest. Planning ahead allows time for practice. If possible, it may be helpful to practice in the same room in which you’ll be presenting—this provides a feeling of familiarity the day of the talk. Questions are a large part of giving a talk, and you should think about possible questions beforehand and prepare for them as much as possible.
Aesthetic considerations are also central. Dean Kull discussed slide design, advising that black text on a white background is generally a safe combination. It is often not a good idea to put too much text on a slide, but pictures may be useful. Also, be sensitive to the fact that someone in the audience may have color blindness, so try to use blue and yellow instead of red and green in figures and text. Animation is an option, and it can be very helpful if, for example, you want to show the steps of a process. Dean Kull also added that using the blackboard for demonstrations during a presentation could be very important, depending on the nature of the talk, and may give a job candidate an edge in some departments.
Dean Kull concluded with a discussion of what one should do after giving a talk. The main take-away message was to note what you can do better the next time and to consider others’ feedback on your presentation, always taking into account the particularities of context and audience, which may influence that feedback.
The ease with which he delivered his talk exemplifies that following the steps that Dean Kull provided will likely aid in preparing a successful presentation. Dean Kull and audience members also observed that “practice makes perfect,” and everyone agreed that the more you practice and give talks, the easier it will become. Overall it was a great experience for everyone who attended!
by Britney Tappen