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Get real about what you can achieve in a slide presentation

What will the typical audience member remember about your presentation 24 hours after hearing it? Most audience members don't take notes, and even for those who do, the slides are usually going by too fast for detailed note taking. So the answer is NOT MUCH.

As a presenter you can take pride if the audience can remember a few key points AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, if your presentation motivates them to learn more. If it inspires them to read your journal article, send you a follow-up question by email, or corner you after your talk, then you have succeeded. This is not to say that individual data slides are unimportant. It may be that a particular piece of data motivates an audience member to learn more. It is the individual data slides that reinforce the few key points that the audience might retain.

A slide presentation is a poor way to reliably transmit data and findings. It is a very effective way to make a scientific argument, motivate people to scrutinize your data at a later point, challenge you, and consider the implications of your work for subjects of interest to them. So build you presentation around a small number of thematic points you want the audience to retain (see earlier "Tips" on writing an essay before doing slides). Don't make your presentation a "data dump." Resist the childlike urge to tell the audience everything you know and have done. LESS CAN BE MORE!

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