Recently I noticed that whenever I have presentations to give, I end up spending quite a lot of time preparing for them. I imagine perfecting presentations takes time for everybody. But probably I take more time the average. As a result of the preparations, my presentations are well done, however, the issue is that while I am preparing for presentations, I am not actively doing research. Therefore, in that period of time, my research slows down a little. This is especially the case when I have very important presentations to give, such as at an international conference or for a job interview. At such times, I end up having a clear break from the research.

I understand that communication is an integral part of the research. It obviously has many benefits. I am not looking for ways to avoid/decrease communication, but merely expressing concern, and would like to know how fellow academics find the balance between spending time on research and preparing for presentations.

Some advice on this topic would be very helpful.

  • 2
    How much time are you now spending on creating presentations?
    – Jeroen
    Oct 13, 2021 at 7:26
  • 2
    What stage of your career are you at? I have found that I have got better and faster at preparing presentations as I have progressed from PhD to postdoc. Like many research tasks, efficiency comes with experience. Oct 13, 2021 at 11:21
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    I would say that as you progress, you spend more time while doing the research figuring out how best to present it - the two processes become intertwined. Then when the talk/paper come, you already have figures done since you made them while coming to your own understanding.
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 13, 2021 at 12:51
  • 1
    One part of it is reuse: Once you have some polished presentation materials, you probably don't want to bin them, but they might come in handy for your next presentation (given that it's unlikely that each of your papers and job talks will be about completely different topics). On top of that, you might also be able to reuse materials from your paper in your presentation, even if there are limits to that. Oct 13, 2021 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


You have identified a small part of a problem that grows significantly as you progress through an academic career. Faculty members will not only have to find the balance between spending time on research and preparing for presentations; they will have to find the balance between:

  • doing research
  • supervising the research of PhD students
  • writing grant proposals
  • hiring people on granted proposals
  • preparing lectures
  • giving lectures
  • getting your heartbeat down to a reasonable level after giving lectures
  • grading exams
  • handling student complaints about their exam grades
  • answering to the examination committee on the topic of those one or two students who feel aggrieved about your handling of their complaints about their exam grades
  • reviewing papers for conferences and journals
  • registering for conferences
  • presenting papers at conferences
  • getting reimbursed for travel to conferences
  • attending meetings of eduational committees within the own university
  • participating in opposition committees for PhD thesis, within and outside of the own university
  • handling hundreds of emails per day
  • handling reminders of email writers who haven't heard from you within their own idea of a reasonable amount of time

And so on, and so forth, day in, day out. And this is just off the top of my head; this list is very likely non-exhaustive.

If you continue in an academic career, you will inevitably run into the problem that there is too much to do in the finite amount of time that you have. So, you must use the available time wisely. If you want to do some of these points with a high level of perfection, you will likely have to sacrifice some other tasks altogether. Alternatively, you can try to do as many of these things as possible, but throw the concept of "perfect" out of the window. For a given amount of time, you need to choose whether you want to do three things perfectly, or twelve things quite well. Noone else can make this choice for you.

  • 4
    (+1) Glad I retired before I saw this list explicitly! ;-)
    – Ed V
    Oct 13, 2021 at 13:00
  • Probably move "writing grant proposals" to number 1 and "attending meetings of educational committees" to number 2. Otherwise, very accurate.
    – Ian
    Oct 13, 2021 at 13:14
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    Yes, putting "doing research" at the top was more aspirational than realistic :)
    – user116675
    Oct 13, 2021 at 15:54

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