By Diana Maricruz Perez Santos
As food scientists we must be able to communicate our knowledge and research to others. But as food geeks, sometimes this skill eludes us. As a PhD student, each year I present my project at several events. It could be a poster, a short presentation, or the most feared, a lecture. Results vary, but stage fright is always the same. Like it or not, we’ll all have to present at some point in our career. Practicing at school or other events helps to develop and define our strengths as communicators. The following are some points to consider when presenting.
- The Surprise Factor: Something could always go wrong (which happens often) such as: incompatibility of computer equipment, other presentations are delayed, or the audience is just tired. My Tip: Try to relax, these things happen. Don’t let these setbacks affect you during your presentation. At the IFT13 Annual Meeting while I was walking to the bus, my bag broke and all my stuff fell out onto the street. I was reduced to crawling around on my hands and knees to collect my things, which made me late. I still presented my poster and although I was disheveled, it wasn’t the end of the world. I got through it.
- Define Your Style: This applies to your writing, your oral presentation, and even your appearance. My tip: when you define your style, this must go along with your personality and take advantage of your strengths. We are in the area of food; don’t try to give a presentation worthy of an academy award. That will come with experience. My experience: I was surprised when another student from school showed up wearing a shirt with a tuxedo printed on it. He stayed true to his style and gave us an excellent talk. You’d think the focus would be on that shirt but it was not. Good for him!
- Be Social: Events, such as the IFT Annual Meeting, allow us an opportunity to meet many people and network with other students and professionals. My tip: Leave “the Grinch” mode at the lab and be open to meeting new friends.
- Respect Your Colleague’s Opinions: Insight gained from other researchers about your work is invaluable. My tip: Welcome their criticism so you can improve on your work. And when discussing your own work, remember to respect their time by being brief.
- Stay Informed: Do some research before your event or meeting on what other people may be talking about. Be prepared to take notes and learn from what other scientists are presenting. We can learn from their research as well as their presentation styles. Just don’t do what I did and show up with a bag of chips and large soda to a “Challenges to combat nutritional junk food in schools” conference.
You’ll gain more skills with the time and I hope some of these tips from my experience will help you. What do you do to prepare for a presentation? What have some of you mistakes been?
Photo credit: www.marketingyrrpp.com