Designing Science Presentations

Designing Science Presentations

A Visual Guide to Figures, Papers, Slides, Posters, and More

1st Edition - December 31, 2012

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  • Author: Matt Carter
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780123859693
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123859709

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Designing Science Presentations guides researchers and graduate students of virtually any discipline in the creation of compelling science communication. Most scientists never receive formal training in the creation, delivery, and evaluation of such material, yet it is essential for publishing in high-quality journals, soliciting funding, attracting lab personnel, and advancing a career. This clear, readable volume fills that gap and provides visually intensive guidance at every step—from the construction of original figures to the presentation and delivery of those figures in papers, slideshows, posters, and websites. It provides pragmatic advice on the preparation and delivery of exceptional scientific presentations; demonstrates hundreds of visually striking presentation techniques, giving readers inspiration for creating their own; and is structured so that readers can easily find answers to particular questions.

Key Features

  • Clear heading for each section indicates its message, highlighted with graphic illustrations
  • Two summary paragraphs that complement the visual images and clearly discuss the main point
  • Numerous examples of high-quality figures, page layouts, slides, posters, and web pages to help stimulate readers' ideas for their own presentations
  • Numerous "before and after" examples to illustrate the contrast between poor and outstanding presentations


Researchers and graduate students in virtually all scientific disciplines, including life science, physical science, and chemistry

Table of Contents

  • Foreword


    Goals of This Book

    Part 1: Designing Exceptional Science Presentations

    1. Scientists as Designers

    Necessary Ingredients in any Science Presentation

    Doesn’t Good Scientific Content Speak for Itself?

    Any Scientist Can Be a Designer

    What is Design?

    What Design Is Not

    Design Is Ultimately about the Audience

    Embrace Simplicity

    About “The Rules”

    Appreciate the Design around You

    Appreciate the Presentations of Other Scientists

    Design Is a Continuous Process

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    2. Design Goals for Different Presentation Formats

    Defining the Goals of Presentation Formats

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Presentation Formats

    Reasons for Success and Failure

    Design a Presentation with Your Format in Mind

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    3. Twenty-One Characteristics Shared by Exceptional Presenters

    1 Choose to Design a Presentation

    2 Present to Communicate a Message

    3 Know Your Target Audience

    4 Demonstrate Care and Respect for Your Audience

    5 Declare the Question or Goal that Drives Your Science

    6 Inspire Interest in Your Subject

    7 Demonstrate Expertise

    8 Introduce Your Background and Methods with Clarity

    9 Balance Details with the Big Picture

    10 Highlight One to Three Take-Home Points

    11 Follow Time Restrictions

    12 Radiate Enthusiasm

    13 Demonstrate Accessibility and Friendliness

    14 Read and Respond to Your Audience

    15 Design Visual Elements with Care

    16 Present Information One Piece at a Time

    17 Let Your Narrative Lead Your Visuals

    18 Master Your Presentation Technology

    19 Master the Written English Language

    20 Be Yourself

    21 Transform Anxiety into Positive Energy

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    Part 2: Visual Elements in Science Presentations

    4. Color

    Why We Use Color

    Color Gone Wild

    Describing Color

    The Color Wheel

    Choosing Color Combinations Using a Color Wheel

    Warm and Cool Colors

    Using Color to Highlight

    Emotional Associations of Different Colors

    Background Colors and Contrast

    Color in a Colorless Environment

    Black and White are Colors, Too

    How Computers Specify Color

    What You See Might Not Be What You Get

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    5. Typography

    Decisions about Text Matter

    Dissection of a Font

    Personality of Fonts

    Sizing Up a Font






    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    6. Words

    Words Matter

    Avoid Wordiness

    Colloquialism and Slang

    Singular versus Plural

    Active versus Passive Verbs

    Verb Tense

    Commonly Misused Words

    Understand the Distinctions between Similar Words

    The Burden of Proof

    Latin Abbreviations

    Writing about Numbers

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    7. Tables

    Anatomy of a Table

    When to Use a Table

    Tables Differ among Different Presentation Formats

    Logically Formatting a Table

    Text and Number Alignment

    Gridlines on Tables

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    8. Charts

    When to Use a Chart

    Categories of Charts

    Anatomy of a Chart

    The Best Chart Titles are Conclusions

    About Figure Legends

    2D Charts are Almost Always Better than 3D

    General Design Considerations for Charts

    Designing a Line Chart

    Designing a Bar Chart

    Designing a Histogram

    Designing a Scatterplot

    Designing a Pie Chart

    Help Your Audience Visualize What is Most Important

    Reduce Clutter Wherever Possible

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    9. Diagrams

    When to Use a Diagram

    Clearly Define the Purpose of a Diagram

    General Design Considerations for Diagrams

    Considerations for Labeling Diagrams

    Designing Venn Diagrams

    Designing Flowcharts

    Designing Tree Diagrams

    Designing Timelines

    Designing Pictorial Diagrams

    Designing Maps

    Designing Sequence Maps

    Designing Network Diagrams

    Designing Pathway Diagrams

    Designing Procedural Diagrams

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    10. Photographs

    Why Show a Photo?

    Assume That Representative Photographic Data Will Be Harshly Judged

    Adjust Data Images Ethically

    Labeling Photographic Images

    Be Picky about Finding Images

    Crop Photos to Emphasize What Is Important

    Use the Rule of Thirds to Improve Your Images

    Adjust Image Settings to Your Needs

    Image File Formats

    Ideal Image Resolutions for Presentation Formats

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    Part 3: Written Presentations

    11. Ten Techniques for Improving Scientific Writing

    1 Clearly State Your Scientific Topic and Goal

    2 Only Write Statements That Can Be Interpreted in a Single Way

    3 Order Information Consistently

    4 Use Strong Topic Sentences

    5 Use Transitions to Unite Your Paper

    6 Avoid Wordiness

    7 Own and Use a Style Guide

    8 Avoid Reader Turn-Offs

    9 Know That Good Writing Is Great Editing

    10 Seek Feedback

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    12. Research Articles

    The Purpose of a Research Article

    The Structure of a Research Article

    The Title Should Emphasize What is Most Important

    The Abstract

    The Introduction

    Materials and Methods

    The Results

    Marrying Figures with Text

    The Discussion

    Common Reasons for Rejection

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    13. Review Articles

    The Purpose of a Review Article

    Different Methods of Presenting the Literature

    Help Your Readers

    Advice on the Writing Process

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    14. Research Proposals

    The Purpose of a Research Proposal: To Justify

    Pleasing Your Reviewers

    The Structure of a Research Proposal

    The Logic of Your Experimental Design

    Enhance the Visual Design of Your Proposals

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    Part 4: Slide Presentations

    15. The Use of Slides in Oral Presentations

    The Purpose of Slides as Presentation Tools

    Slides are for the Audience, Not the Speaker

    Design a Slide Presentation from an Audience’s Perspective

    Know Your Audience

    Create Ideas, Not Slides

    The Relationship Between Slides and Oral Delivery

    How Many Slides?

    Exceptional Presentations Require Time and Effort

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    16. The Structure of a Slide Presentation

    A Good Scientific Talk Is a Good Scientific Story

    Set the Tone of Your Talk with a Title Slide

    Start a Talk by Progressing from General Questions to Specific Goals

    Clearly State Your Scientific Goal and Why It Is Worth Pursuing

    Prepare for Inevitable Shifts in Attention

    Organize the Presentation of Data into Individual Segments

    Unite Sections of a Talk Using a “Home Slide”

    Deliberately Emphasize One to Three Take-Home Messages

    End a Talk by Transitioning from Specific Details to a Broader Scientific Context


    Answer Questions While Showing a Summary Diagram

    Outline of a Structured Scientific Talk

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    17. Visual Elements in Slide Presentations

    Visual Elements on Slides

    Add Design Instead of Decoration


    Color Considerations for Slides

    Assemble a Unifying Tone Using a Color Palette

    Fonts Must Be Legible

    Keep Text to a Minimum

    Minimize the Use of Lists and Outlines

    Use Slide Titles to Make a Point

    Optimize Tables and Charts for Slides

    Try to Only Present One Table or Chart per Slide

    Animate Information in Tables and Charts for Maximum Impact

    Diagrams in Slides

    Photographs in Slides

    Video: The Ultimate Presentation Tool

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    18. Slide Layout

    The Importance of Slide Layout

    Avoid Universal Slide Templates

    Design a Natural Flow of Information

    Emphasize Important Elements

    Align Visual Elements for Harmony

    Align Elements Using a Grid

    Embrace Simplicity

    Split Busy Slides into Many Slides

    Achieve Harmony with Photographs

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    19. Slide Animations and Transitions

    The Benefits of Using Slide Animation Effects

    Don’t Be an Animation Show-Off

    Use Animation to Introduce Concepts at a Time of Your Choosing

    Use Animation to Relate the Big and the Small

    Animate Movements Naturally

    Animate Diagrams to Bring Dynamic Processes to Life

    Use Animation to Direct the Audience’s Attention

    Use Slide Transitions Minimally for Emphasis

    Use Transitions to Create Scenes and Panoramas

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    20. Delivering a Slide Presentation

    To Seem Like a Natural, Design and Rehearse

    Be Present

    Be Visible and Audible

    Cater to a Specific Audience

    Eliminate Verbal Distractions

    Don’t Use Slides as Presentation Notes

    Soliciting and Answering Audience Questions

    Dealing with Anxiety

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    21. Using Technology to Present Like a Professional

    Know How to Control Your Presentation

    Bring Your Own Power and Projection Cords

    Calibrating a Laptop with a Projector

    Alternate Display Settings

    Learn the Light Switch

    Keeping Track of Time

    Using a Laser Pointer

    Using a Remote Slide Advancer

    Considerations for Presenting While Traveling

    Considerations for Presenting with Someone Else’s Computer

    Prepare for the Worst

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    22. Considerations for Different Categories of Slide Presentations

    The Research Seminar

    The Symposium Talk

    The Data Blitz

    The Course Lecture

    The Lab Meeting Presentation

    The Journal Club

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    Part 5: Oral Presentations Without Slides

    23. Presenting Without Slides

    You Never Needed Slides in the First Place

    Communicating Structure without Slides

    Plan Figures Ahead of Time

    Maintaining an Audience’s Attention

    About Presentation Notes

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    24. Considerations for Different Categories of Oral Presentations Without Slides

    The Chalk Talk

    The Round Table Presentation

    The Elevator Speech

    The Speaker Introduction

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    Part 6: Poster Presentations

    25. The Structure of a Scientific Poster

    The Purpose of Poster Presentations

    The Paradoxes of a Scientific Poster

    The First Step: Writing an Abstract

    The Sections of a Poster

    The Importance of Reducing Text

    Advice on Composing the Content of a Poster

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    26. The Design and Layout of a Poster

    There is No Single Way to Design a Poster

    An Initial Consideration: The “Old-School” Poster

    Design an Intuitive Order of Information

    Use Borders to Segregate Sections

    Make Your Words Easy to Read

    Let Your Text and Figures Breathe

    Background Colors

    Align Elements for Harmony

    Eliminate Extraneous Elements

    Choosing Glossy versus Matte Prints

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos

    27. Presenting at a Poster Session

    Posters are for Personal Interactions

    Preparing for the Presentation Venue

    Displaying Your Poster

    Bring a Poster Repair Kit

    Giving a “Walkthrough”

    Knowing Where You Stand

    Looking (and Smelling) Good

    Supplementary Information

    Summary: Don’ts and Dos


    Appendix A. Recommendations for Further Reading

    Appendix B. Learning to Use Illustration and Presentation Software

    Appendix C. Thoughts on How to Design a Presentation from Scratch

    Appendix D. Thoughts on Using Design Principles to Market Yourself


Product details

  • No. of pages: 384
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2013
  • Published: December 31, 2012
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780123859693
  • eBook ISBN: 9780123859709

About the Author

Matt Carter

Matt Carter
Matt Carter is an Associate Professor of Biology at Williams College where he teaches courses in neuroscience and physiology. His research program focuses on how the brain regulates food intake and sleep and is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. In addition to primary scientific publications, he is also the author of Designing Science Presentations (Academic Press). He is a recipient of the Walter Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching from Stanford University and the Nelson Bushnell Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Writing from Williams College.

Affiliations and Expertise

Assistant Professor of Biology, Williams College, Williamstown, MA, USA

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  • Neville G. Sat Oct 05 2019

    Neville’s feedback

    Great for Science Presentations