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Designing Science Presentations - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780123859693, 9780123859709

Designing Science Presentations

1st Edition

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

Author: Matt Carter
Paperback ISBN: 9780123859693
eBook ISBN: 9780123859709
Imprint: Academic Press
Published Date: 31st December 2012
Page Count: 384
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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



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



No. of pages:
© Academic Press 2013
31st December 2012
Academic Press
Paperback ISBN:
eBook ISBN:

About the Author

Matt Carter

Matt Carter

Matt Carter is Associate Professor of Biology at Williams College where he teaches courses in neuroscience and physiology. His research focuses on how the brain regulates food intake and sleep. In addition to publishing articles and presenting talks on his research, he also enjoys giving workshops on scientific presentation design. He is a recipient of the Walter Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching from Stanford University and the Nelson Bushnell Prize for Teaching and Writing at Williams College. He lives in Williamstown with his wife and three children.

Affiliations and Expertise

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


"Each chapter begins with an introduction to the material and contains a succinctly done and well-illustrated main body, followed by a listing of dos and don’ts for the type of material covered. The text is recommended for the novice presenter as well as the seasoned instructor looking for ways to improve delivery and, perhaps, student (or cohort) evaluations."--IEEE Pulse, July/August 2014

"This volume guides researchers and graduate students in the creation of compelling science communication…This clear, readable volume…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."--Anticancer Research 34, 2014

Ratings and Reviews