Sunday, October 16, 2011

Presentation Sin: Overboard detail

The saying goes that the devil is in the detail, and in scientific presentations is this certainly the case. Sadly, all too often students, researchers and professors run over their audiences with too much detail. If everything is important, then nothing is important. If you provide too much detail, you will decrease the contrast of your talk, making it monotonous, losing your main point.  Short presentations, that is, 20 minute talks plus Q&A should be about --what I call-- vision: one solid point supported by two, maximum three arguments. Leave the detail for the report, article or even a book.
Left: Clear contrast between your vision and the surroundings. Right: Tough to differentiate details from the surroundings
Clarity, not detail should characterized short talks. If you suspect your are giving too much detail, chances are you have not defined your core message. In this case, you need to review who is your audience and why is it they are coming to see you. The fact that you know your material so well does not imply that you have to tell the audience everything you know about it. Leave them craving for you. In you provide a crisp vision they will ask you for more. This is not to say that you should not know your material. On the contrary, mastering your material is essential to clear your core message from the unnecessary details.

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