At SCCS-Bengaluru, you are allotted 17 minutes for your talk. In this 17 minutes, 15 minutes are allotted for your actual talk and 2 minutes are allotted for questions.

Your talk should basically have the same organisation as your abstract:

  • Introduction: What conservation problem or question does your talk/poster address?-
  • Methods: What were the main research methods you used?
  • Results: What are your most important results?
  • Discussion: What are the interpretations of your results? What is the relevance of your results to conservation (if any)?

Each of these sections is covered in detail below:

Introduction: What conservation problem or question does your talk address?

In this section you are expected

  • to start by providing the general context for your study
  • to end by indicating a significant conservation-related question addressed by your project

The significant question mentioned above will be the highpoint of the talk's Introduction and is basically your project's aim. It should not be confused with your objectives (which you should not mention in this part). Aim-level questions generally address real issues (e.g. What is the abundance of chevrotain in Bandipur National Park? Is harvesting of forest products in the Great Himalayan National Park increasing or decreasing? How many ground-dwelling skink species live in the forests of Mouling National Park?).

Objective-level questions are much more specific and they are focussed on providing data that can provide insights into the aim-level question (e.g. What is the photo capture-recapture density estimate of chevrotain in Bandipur NP? What do villagers living on the edge of GHNP say about the intensity of their forest-harvesting practises in 2010 compared to 2000? Which ground-dwelling skink species are captured in pit-fall traps set up in the three altitudinal zones of Mouling National Park?).

Being able to appreciate the difference between your aim- and objective-level questions is important because:

  • your audience will probably be more interested in the aim-level question, and so you know what to emphasise, and
  • in the rest of your talk, the answers to the two different types of questions will be given in different sections.

Objectives and Methodology: What were the main research methods you used?

Having told the audience what your aim is, now tell them your objectives. You may need to explain why you chose your particular approaches, out of all the possible ways in which you could have acquired data relevant to your aim.

Next, give a description of how, when and where you acquired the data. While doing this, look for opportunities to keep the objectives fresh in your audience's mind, by linking the methodology to the objectives.

For example,

"Using quadrats and pit-fall traps, we surveyed the number of skink species in the three altitudinal ranges of the park (low: 750m-1550m; mid:1500m-2250; high: 2250m-3000m), over a two-month period (June-July) at the peak of the rainy season."

One of the big problems for an audience is that they cannot flip back and forth within the talk (as when reading) if they lose the thread. Think of each objective as a thread whose existence must be continually reinforced in your audience's memory.

If there is anything unexpected about how you processed the data (e.g. using some new model for occupancy), mention that as well. Otherwise, avoid any lengthy discussion of familiar statistical approaches.

Results: What are your most important results?

The results provide the answers to the objective-level questions only - do not stray into discussing the aim-level question. Since objectives typically generate data, the core of the Results section will be graphs, tables etc.. Organise your talk so that each figure is large and remains up on the screen for a considerable time. You want to give your audience time to absorb the information - they may well pick up some pattern you have missed. Two ways to help maximise exposure are:

Verbally explain the axes on a graph, or the columns/rows in a table

Talk about the figure yourself, rather than relying on people reading lots of text on the same slide - and by minimising text, the figure can be larger.

Discussion and conclusions: What are the interpretations of your results? What is the relevance of your results to conservation (if any)?

The discussion component must firstly, and compulsorily, tell the audience how the results help answer the aim-level question. In most cases you will basically explain what your somewhat artificial sampling procedures tell us about something in the real world.

Start by reminding the audience of the aim - they may well have forgotten by now. Then restate the main results and explain what they suggest individually or collectively. Do not take it for granted that the audience will automatically make the same conclusions as you (especially if a conclusion is unexpected). You may have to argue a case for the applicability of your approaches, or the reliability of your data. If there is a significant limitation to your study, better to mention it yourself now than to have it pointed out in Question Time.

After having discussed the connection between the results and your aim, you can then (optionally) consider the wider implications of your proposed answers, or suggestions for further work. Such suggestions will almost necessarily be more speculative in nature, and thus should not be a major focus in terms of the time you devote to them. But they can be interesting and do help to round off the talk and to make the mood more social, thus creating a bridge into Question Time.

Memorise or Improvise?

The two most difficult parts of the talk are the start and the finish. The start is difficult because:

  • You may be nervous, not having got into the swing of the talk yet
  • You need to narrow down quickly from the very general to the very particular. It is easy to over-discuss general issues. Remember that in a talk, general issues are just a means to an end: helping the audience to understand what you actually did and its significance. You can often deal with the background to your talk with several crisp, well-worded sentences

The conclusion is challenging because:

  • You may be tired
  • People expect a strong ending

For these reasons it is wise, for both the start and finish:

  • To devote a lot of preparation time (and practice) to them
  • To memorize them

For the remainder of the talk, memorization is not generally a good idea. It is better to devote time to making sure the structure is simple and sound. This will not only mean that the talk will be easy for your audience to follow, but, for you, it will be easy to remember its basic flow.