Public Presentations
Public Presentations

Outreach through presentations is crucial in making the general public aware of the relevance and importance of scientific endeavors! Presenting to the public offers the opportunity to share:
  • cutting-edge science
  • the process of science
  • the knowledge that scientists are real people
  • This is not just about your science; the public in general is unprepared to appreciate the importance of science in their lives. They are disconnected. We, as scientists, can share the excitement and relevance of science, thus better preparing the public to weigh in on decisions and debates, and ensuring their continued support.


  • You may be contacted by a group for a presentation. Alternatively, contact local museums, science centers, civic groups, retirement homes, etc. and let them know that you are interested in sharing your research. Your university or institution probably has seminar series; parcticipate in these.

  • Determine the level of the audience. If general public, consider presenting at an 8th grade level. If a polar society, you may wish to ramp up the level of the presentation.

  • Determine the objective of the lecture. Often museums host a series of presentations in connection with a parcticular exhibit; you want to pitch the presentation appropriately.

  • If your presentation is in a series, find out what has come before and what will follow. Draw connections to the other presentations.

  • Occasionally, researchers don't want to present the science content because it is "boring" or "too difficult for the audience to understand." Don't buy into this; by not presenting your science, you are adding to the negative public attitudes about science and doing a disservice to everyone involved. Invest the time to make sure the relevance, interest, and excitement of your research comes through.

  • Help your audience to understand what you do! Provide background information so that they make the connections and see the relevance of the science. Define terms and acronyms.

  • Verify location, time, place, equipment, and parking (yes, even parking!).

  • Provide a 3x5 card of bullets of your life's highlights to who ever will present you to the audience.

  • Bring props - maps, posters, videos, resource lists, etc.

  • Make sure your images are up to snuff; often slides used at a research conference are not appropriate to a general audience.
  • When You Are Presenting:
  • The average person can concentrate for ~37 minutes. Plan on no more than 40 minutes for the formal presentation; it can be longer if you are interactive and involve a significant component of your audience.

  • Talk a little about yourself and how you got involved in science.

  • Break up your presentation; while you want to have science content, you also what to illustrate how the science gets done, why it is important, the different people involved in your project, funny stories from the field, etc.

  • Watch the body language of the students; if they are squirming or falling asleep, wrap up, pick up the pace, move around, challenge their minds with interesting questions - what ever works!

  • Always wrap up with a summary of what you discussed.

  • Leave time for audience questions; questions are just as important as your content delivery because they allow the audience to "own" the information.

  • Resources
    Communication Skills - making oral presentations. An overview of the basics of making a good presentation.

    Presentation Techniques from Minnesota Western.

    Communicating Science to the Public: A Handbook for Researchers by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada This guide is designed to aid researchers in their communications with the public and media.

    New ideas, suggestions for changes, recommendations for additions, etc. always are welcome and can be mailed to:

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