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Three-minute Talks 2014 logoCan you describe your postdoctoral work in three minutes or less? The new NICHD Science Communication “Three-Minute-Talks” Competition is helping postdoctoral fellows do just that. As part of the competition, Mr. Scott Morgan leads workshops on how to present scientific achievements in a concise format.

If you missed it, you can find a recap of Mr. Morgan’s first workshop in last month’s issue of The NICHD Connection. The second workshop was on February 18, 2014. During the workshop, participants presented their research on a single slide and in a talk of less than three minutes. Mr. Morgan then met with each fellow and suggested changes to the slide as well as to the spoken content. I asked several fellows to share some of the problems highlighted by Mr. Morgan during their session. Based on their responses, I have compiled the top ten most common mistakes to watch out for in your presentations:

  1. The first line of the talk should be more general than specific, but should still reflect why your research is important. You need to grab the audience’s attention! 
  2. Avoid slides that have too much content or look too busy. Remember, not every detail you say needs a figure. 
  3. Refer to your slide when mentioning a figure with phrases like “as shown in figure one” or “as shown in the top-most figure.”
  4. If you are presenting a model to explain your work, consider using two different figures. The first figure should explain the model of what is known before your work, and the second figure should explain the full model based on your current work.
  5. Figures should be made self-explanatory by providing legends. 
  6. Remove parts of the figure that are not discussed during your talk.
  7. Each figure should relate to your research question. Do not include unrelated information.
  8. Conclude your talk with future aims.
  9. Be careful to stay on topic. Your results and conclusion should give—or at least point to—an answer to the original research question. 
  10. Last, but not least, maintain eye contact!