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I have a 3-min presentation for a conference. I am an early researcher who has never done any presentation, so this will be my first.

Presentation is my weakness, and it is a challenge for me to give a smooth talk. I am feeling nervous.

Q: How common is to write out a script for a 3-min talk and just follow the papers?

  • Three minutes?! What kind of conference is that? That's barely more than an elevator pitch... – Raphael Oct 30 '16 at 17:13
  • @Raphael I think that's a way to encourage students and early researcher. The conference has longer talks as well. – SmallChess Oct 30 '16 at 23:10
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If you literally read a script, word-for-word, and do not have a teleprompter, you are going to be looking down too much and not looking at your audience enough.

Even if you write a script, it would be better to have notes that help you keep the main points in order, and practice until you can give the complete talk in the required time just glancing occasionally at your notes.

  • Agreed. Reading is a lot worse than reciting something you learned by heart. – Raphael Oct 30 '16 at 17:14
  • Just to add to this excellent advice: When I started giving presentations (that was in high school, mind you) I always prepared extensive notes and rehearsed with them. I would hold them in my hands when giving the talk only to realize later that I'd never even looked at them. However, having them gave me confidence. If you can't remember what you wanted to say in a three-minute talk you have a serious case of stage fright. – Roland Oct 31 '16 at 7:28
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Reading from a script is not a common practice, but should be completely OK for an early-career (and even more experienced) researcher if it helps them, not only to memorise what they wants to say, but more important, to give a good presentation to the audience.

This technique could be very useful for people who have little or no presentation experience, have some fear of public speaking, or are not so articulate in the presentation language (e.g., not their native language).

The "speaker's notes" feature in many presentation tools (e.g., Powerpoint) is there to be used by the speaker (if needed). For each slides, you can put either the key points to remember or the whole script. For the latter, try to make a structured (e.g., bullet points) 2:45-minute script, and highlight the key points in bold/colors -- could be easier for you to memorize and follow, then practice the script and improve it as needed.

But in order to give a smooth presentation experience for the audience, you still need to take care of the other aspects of your presentation skills (e.g., good slides, body language, eye contact, effective pointing at figures/tables on the slides while reading from notes, etc).

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    +1 I always struggle with giving good presentations, this is very helpful advice. – astronat Oct 29 '16 at 8:50
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    In my experience, reading from a script is common practice for people who struggle significantly with speaking English. – Eric Oct 29 '16 at 13:03
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    Reading does not help give good presentations, reading is per definition a lousy presentation. – user7019377 Oct 29 '16 at 17:29
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    @user7019377: not by definition, and not universally. Read presentations are often bad, it’s true, mostly because the speaker’s attention is in danger of being too focused on the text and not on engaging with the audience. But I’ve also seen a few read presentations where the speaker was careful to avoid that and other pitfalls, and gave an excellent presentation. It’s certainly possible — and for someone who finds the script helps with nerves, it may well be beneficial. – PLL Oct 30 '16 at 17:12
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    @user7019377 And that's why most anchorman or entertainers do auch a bad job? Because they read off teleprompters? – Dirk Oct 30 '16 at 17:38
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Practice, practice, practice! To directly answer your question: no, it is neither common nor advisable to simply read from a page at a conference. If it were, we'd all just hand out slips of paper or email paragraphs of text and not bother with real people talking. Giving a three minute presentation is not easy. Even for people who make it look easy, it's not -- that comes after lots of practice. I've been giving talks for a long time, and still I always write out beforehand what I'll say and practice it -- the words, the timing, etc. If you're new to this, and it's a 3-minute talk, you should be rehearsing this repeatedly, by yourself and with others (e.g. group-mates).

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