You’ve been asked to speak at a conference. You said, “Yes please, that sounds like fun.”

It’s now 48 hours before the event: your palms are sweaty, the butterflies are fluttering, and you begin to wonder why you agreed to this madness in the first place. You think you’re going to choke, bore everyone, get booed, and then return to the lab a laughing stock.


Not everyone was born with ability to dazzle crowds of people, delivering TED-worthy presentations with huge servings of vocal cadence and confidence. We’ve spoken with people who’ve been there – conference veterans – who’ve sat through hundreds of presentations and given dozens of talks. Here are a few of the things they advise against. So, don’t

Just read your slides

You’ll have slides, everyone does. The audience would be too freaked out if you didn’t – and you need to show some of that glorious data you’re so excited about! Slides should show supporting data, images, and sometimes summaries of a few points. It gets very boring and tedious when people just recite what they’ve got on their Powerpoint.

Expect a press conference volume of questions

There’s a good chance not everyone in the room is as excited about your area as you. Some attendees may just be watching as they’re interested in learning more about other subjects outside their own. It can be daunting when you’re greeted with silence at the end instead of lots of raised arms – maybe you were just too good?

Wing it

Rehearsing your presentation a few times before the day will not only improve its delivery, but it will help take away some of those nerves. Some people out there can get away with it – many can’t. You can always tell when the presenter hasn’t bothered to have a run through, and it sometimes goes very wrong. Don’t be that person.


You’re thinking: “If I talk faster, then I’ll finish quicker and all this pain will just be a memory!” But no-one will have understood what you were talking about for the last 45 minutes. Take it slowly: silence between sentences – even words – is absolutely fine. This will give you time to formulate your points and arguments in your head before they come charging out of your mouth.

Panic when you get that killer question at the end

It’s going to happen at somepoint: someone’s going to ask you that awful and convoluted question that you don’t have the answer to. That’s fine. Don’t panic. You don’t have to have all the answers. Point out that it’s a problem you’ve considered, that you don’t have an answer right now, but you’d love to investigate it soon – or maybe you’re already planning to investigate it. No-one expectes you to know everything all the time.

Be too put off to do it again

It takes time and practice to get good at presenting to large audiences. If the first one goes badly or the experience was too stressful, give it another go. You will get better at time. You’ll learn to relax and maybe even enjoy it!


You’ve got this. You know your stuff and they are going to love you. Everyone in that audience is on your side and wants you to do well. Just go out and make everyone in the Tipbox Team (okay, sure, and your lab) proud!

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