Presentation Guidelines

Guidelines for Talks:

At SCCS-Bengaluru, you are allotted 17 minutes for your talk. Of these 17 minutes, 15 minutes are allotted for your presentation, and 2 minutes are allotted for questions.

Your talk should essentially have the same organisation as your abstract, that is:

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-harveting 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.

Guidelines for Poster Presentations:

Do not mail your poster presentation in advance - print it and bring it with you to the conference.

The orientation of your poster can be either landscape or portrait, but please ensure that the poster size does not exceed the following dimensions irrespective of its orientation: 3ft (wide) x 4ft (high)

Your poster will be allotted a number and you should display your poster only on the poster board that matches this number. Please contact the registration desk for additional details. Please ensure that you remove your poster, latest by 2.30 pm on the last day of the conference. Please make sure you are present at your poster during the poster sessions, to answer questions. All posters are divided into three groups (A, B & C) to be presented in turn, with one day of the conference for each group. This schedule is designed such that all poster presenters get an opportunity to present their own poster as well as attend posters presented by their colleagues.

At poster sessions, many posters are presented simultaneously, so you need to compete for audience attention. Your poster should therefore be bold, well-designed and attractive, even maybe a bit provocative to catch people's attention. It should be easily readable from a distance of 1.8m (6 feet). Remember that some people will read your poster when you are not there in front of it. This means that even without explanation, the poster should make sense. This does not mean however that it should be comprehensive, rather it should present a simple story, just like your conference abstract. Therefore, limit yourself to the key aspects of your work.

DESIGN TIPS

1. Try to produce your entire poster on a single piece of paper
A lot of design problems arise when a poster is made from a large number of small pieces of paper. The worst case is using a bunch of A4-sized sheets. This will almost inevitably lead to use of fonts that are too small to read. Also, the gaps between the pages create unwanted breaks (both logical and visual) in the flow of your poster. The easiest way to create a single-piece poster is using the custom settings of Powerpoint or some equivalent.

The text of the poster should start in the upper left hand corner. From here, the poster should flow from left to right and top to bottom, using columns if needed. You may wish to use letters, numbers, or arrows as needed to indicate the proper flow to the audience.
There are pre-created templates for designing posters in MS PowerPoint. Some of these can be found at:
http://www.posterpresentations.com/html/free_poster_templates.html

2. Too much text = loss of audience interest = death of poster
What kills most posters is too much text. Avoid full paragraphs. Bullet points are much better than full sentences. See if you can replace text with something more visually appealing, e.g. a map, a flowchart or a self-explanatory picture. As a general rule, the word count should not exceed 600 words. A good way to achieve this is to aim for about 400 words.

A very rough guide:

Introduction: 150 words
Materials & methods: 150 words
Results: 150 words
Discussion/Conclusions: 150 words
References - only include references vital to your work. These should ideally be in much smaller font size than the body text.
Acknowledgments - keep them brief, and use a smaller font size.

3. Keep it simple
Ask yourself at every step:
Have I used many words instead of a few?

  • e.g. 'it is likely that climate change may affect bird migration' can be replaced with 'climate change may affect bird migration'
  • e.g. 'invasion by alien species may be aided by the opening of forest gaps' is an unnecessarily long version of 'forest gaps may aid alien invasions'

This is especially useful while presenting results.

  • e.g. 'Herbivory by butterfly caterpillars was found to be affected by the concentration of secondary compounds in young leaves. An increase in secondary compound concentration led to decreased herbivory.' This is the same as saying 'Secondary compounds in young leaves negatively affect caterpillar herbivory.'

Have I used any jargon?
Jargon is highly technical language, which, chances are, only your supervisor and (some) lab-mates will understand. So replace, for example, 'kleptoparasitism' with 'stealing'. It is much simpler to understand, has fewer syllables, and you will not have to explain it to each person who starts to read your poster.

4. Use clear headings and sub-headings
These will help people navigate through your poster even if you are not there to explain it to them. Usually poster headings follow roughly the format of a paper but do not include abstract.

Title - should be large, catchy, and a maximum of two lines in length. The title must be at the top of the board.

Introduction - in this section you are expected

  • to provide the general context for your study
  • to indicate a significant conservation-related question addressed by your project: i.e. your aim
  • to explain the specific questions you addressed to help provide insights related to your aim i.e. your objectives.

It is important to understand and make clear the difference between your aim and objectives. 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-harveting 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?)

Study area (if important) - a map here is better than text

Materials and methods - this is potentially one of the most boring parts of a study, and a graphic or flowchart helps a great deal in keeping the audience interested. Also, look for opportunities to keep the objectives fresh in your audience's mind, by linking your methods to the objectives.

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.. Neat, well-labeled graphs with self-explanatory legends are much better than text. A good thing to remember when making graphs is that the graph should be a stand-alone explanation without having to refer to any other text.

Conclusions - The discussion component must firstly, and compulsorily, tell the audience how the results help answer the aim-level question. 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. The conclusions should, ideally, be bulleted.

5. Use consistent formatting
A very useful way of formatting your poster to improve readability and comprehension is to make your poster 'modular'. In other words, having separate boxes for Introduction, Methods etc., with enough separation between the boxes. This allows the audience to skip parts like the methods and go straight to the discussion or conclusion sections.
A poster should have a lot of empty space (about 35%). This does not mean that:

  • you leave 35% blank and cram the remainder with text
  • you should add text to the empty spaces once you finish the poster!

Avoid using more than:
2 font types
2 font colours
3 font sizes
Too many format changes make the audience focus on the formatting rather than on the content.

Font types: there are two types of fonts: serif fonts like Times New Roman and sans serif fonts (which don't have the small things sticking out at the angles of the letters) like Arial. Serif fonts are easier to read in books and papers. Sans serif fonts are easier to read on screen or on posters. That's why most people prefer using sans serif fonts in posters and PowerPoint presentations.

Font sizes: A rough guide to font sizes -
Title: 150 pt
Section headings: 36 pt
Body text: 26 pt

Text justification: Text is easier to read when left justified rather than when justified to the left and the right.

6. Use colour wisely
Posters are basically a visual medium of presenting data, and colour can help draw people to your poster and help you to present your message. However, if used unwisely, colours can make your poster less attractive and more confusing. Colours should be well co-coordinated and their use consistent throughout. For example, be consistent in the colours (and font type/size) used for subheadings. It is better to err on the side of too little colour than too much!

7. QR Code
At SCCS- Bangalore, we recommend (not compulsory) that all poster presenters include a QR Code at the bottom right corner of your poster.
This can be a 2cm * 2cm square.

What is a QR Code?
QR code is a matrix type barcode which when scanned with simple devices like smartphones can lead you to a url or complete a specific action.
Some details at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_code

How does it work?
Add a QR code to your poster and anyone with a smart phone and a free QR code reading application can scan your QR code to get your contact details, affiliation, abstract details etc. very quickly.

How do I add a QR Code to my poster?

  • Locate and click on your abstract at (coming soon!) http://www.sccs-bng.org/posters/
  • Copy the url of your abstract
  • Visit a QR Code creating website like http://www.qrstuff.com/
  • Paste the url for your abstract
  • Download QR Code in PNG format
  • Paste the QR code into the bottom right corner of your poster
  • You need not make the QR Code larger than 2cm * 2cm.

Which apps can read QR Codes?
Search on Google Play Store or iTunes Store for a free app. There are many.

How can I read a QR Code?
Use any QR Code scanning application on a mobile device connected to internet (available at SCCS venue) and point to the QR Code. This should take you to the web-page of your abstract.

What if I don’t have a smart phone?
If you cannot read a QR Code, you cannot access the website through the code. But there may be others who have a smart phone and can contact you easier this way.

Can I give my QR code for my friend to use in his/her poster?
No, please ask your friend to generate his/her own QR Codes.
Each QR Code is specific to only one url. If you interchange or exchange QR Codes on the posters, only the url used to create the QR Code will work irrespective of which poster it is pasted on.

Part of this information was sourced from Umesh Srinivasan, NCBS, and Jason Tylianakis, University of Canterbury, New Zealand and http://www.conbio.org/
For more guidelines on designing conservation posters please see http://www.conbio.org/professional-development/advice-for-students/help-designing-posters