Effective Presentations: Lessons from SICSS Paris

It’s only Day 2 of the Summer Computational Social Sciences, Paris Location. As part of the rich curriculum, I and 19 other participants were privileged to listen to Marie Bergström as she presented her recent study titled: The New Laws of Love – Studying Online Dating with Big Data

Key lessons on the use of big data to study couples’ behaviour were gleaned. However, I was particularly impressed by Marie’s presentation skills. As I sat in the ENSEA auditorium of the Institut Polytechnique de Paris, I couldn’t help but take these notes on three elements of her presentation- Simplicity, Conversational Manner and Naturalness.

Simple Does it:

Marie’s slides were exceptionally simple yet beautiful. Each slide consisted of three simple colours (red and black on white background). Most of the information were presented in black text, but I noticed that keywords and main points were written in red text. No fancy fonts, not tiny, not overwhelming, and no dancing, scribbling, sliding animations. Simple, straight to the point, warm and pleasing to read. Simple informational graphs were also used to present the main findings. I can say that everyone understood the information presented. At least, I won’t forget that while the study revealed an inverse relationship between male and female dating preferences, there are strong points of intersection (negotiation) among dating couples in their 40s. That’s the result of effective presentations.

Have A Conversation:

Marie’s effective presentations went beyond just speaking. I noted other techniques such as eye contact with the audience, appropriate gesticulation, deliberate pauses, and her soothing tone of voice. It didn’t feel like gospel or a lullaby. It was engaging. To spice up her presentation, Marie used simple questions and a random poll to highlight key points. She also entertained questions from the audience, including my silly question “What is Epic Research?” Lol.

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Naturalness is Beautiful:

While the presentation was an opportunity to teach us what we do not know about, Marie was not domineering. She delivered the lecture like she was having a conversation with friends she had known for a long time. While one may be swimming in a lot of information, Marie taught me that it’s very ok to use phrases such as “That’s an interesting point but I’ve not thought about this research in that direction”, “I’m not sure I have the answer”, “If you have any hypothesis on this, I’ll be glad to learn about it”. You don’t have to know it all. Even Google sometimes replies to a query with “no results found”.

I am sure that many young academics/researchers would find these lessons helpful for effective presentations at conferences, viva and lectures. Remember, Keep it Simple, Be Conversational and Try to Achieve a Natural Flow.

Many thanks to the Center for Research in Economics and Statistics (CREST) for sponsoring this much-needed Summer Institute with carefully selected instructors.

Scholarly Love ❤️
Juliet Inyang