Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Member Spotlight: Katie Vinopal, Ph.D.

Member Spotlight: Katie Vinopal, Ph.D.

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DC Regional Student Conference Session: Presentation Skills Workshop

The session started with an overview from each of the speakers. They gave background information on their presentation experiences. The workshop session speakers included Kimberly Arnold, Johns Hopkins University; Katrina Hubbard Dunlap, George Mason University; Robert Francis, Johns Hopkins University; Seth Gershenson, American University; Molly Irwin, U.S. Department of Labor; Jonathan Schwabish, The Urban Institute.

Moderator Katrina Hubbard Dunlap welcomed the presenters and attendees. She noted that the discussion would focus on presentation skills, advice, and "how to"s. 

Robert Francis, of Johns Hopkins University, remarked about the importance of presentations for students and especially policy-minded audiences. He stated that confidence (of lack thereof) in your research shines through in a presentation. He advised that students should know their materials and their own presentation so that they seem confident when delivering the research in front of others. He advised that students give the presentation in front of others – teachers, fellow students, friends – and that practice would not only provide students with a better handle on their presentation, but would also prepare them to respond to questions and tackle slides. 
 
Mr. Francis advised students to:
  • Practice your presentation often and in front of others
  • Know your material!
  • Be confident - "Think well of yourself, think well of your abilities, & also be humble."
Molly Irwin, of the Department of Labor, spoke about her experience with presentations.  She noted that her organization does a lot of research and there are often many stakeholders. Some of the research and findings need to be presented to various audiences, and not all audiences should or will receive the information in the same manner. Each presentation, when it comes to your research and findings should be tailored to your audience members. Make sure that you don’t overwhelm your audience with information, but be sure to focus your presentation on what is important about your research.
 
Ms. Irwin’s key takeaways for a successful presentation are:
  • Know your audience and customize your presentation for them
  • Don’t get bogged down in the details – drive your audience to focus on the research highlights
  • Every study is important, even if there are no findings – but present it all the same!
Seth Gershenson, of American University, talked from both the student and professor perspective on presentations. He spoke about the need to create audience engagement and make your research accessible. By making your research interesting and applicable, audiences won’t get confused trying to understand your work and will be more inclined to be attentive. Making your presentation slide legible  but including only data highlights and avoid reading from the slides help to engage the audience in the topic presented.
 
Mr. Gershenson's advice for a successful presentation is:
  • Be receptive to questions and input about your research
  • Make handouts for audience members to takeaway
  • Be excited and enthusiastic and energetic about your work!
Jonathan Schwabish, of the Urban Institute, spoke about the need to present complex data in simple terms. Mr. Schwabish told the student attendees that presenting findings in a simple manner will help keep the audience’s attention.  He advised that students register for all types of presentations (posters/panels) as often as possible. The practice gained from frequently presenting would only help to hone those presentation skills – including public speaking and responding to questions about your research. Make your slides easy to read by keeping the information to a minimum and making the font large. Don’t make your audience read if they are also trying to listen.
 
Mr. Schwabish’s tips for student presenters included:
  • Practice in front of others as often as possible
  • You, not the slides, should be the center of attention during your presentation!
  • Continually ask for feedback and refine your presentation accordingly
 
 

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