17 Preparing Oral Presentations

Here are some questions that your team should be prepared to answer:

  • What was the research question? Is the hypothesis testable given the research design?
  • Why was this question interesting to the group? Is the biological rationale an appropriate basis for the hypothesis?
  • Was the experimental design appropriate to the research question?
  • Are the figures and tables appropriate for the type of data? Are they easy to interpret, properly labeled with informative legends (for posters)?
  • Discussion: Do your results support your hypothesis as stated? Did your methods allow you to test your hypothesis? Are the conclusions logical given the data?  How do the results impact what is known about this phenomenon? Are the arguments easily followed?  If your data do not support your hypothesis, what biological assumptions were likely inaccurate?
  • What new directions would the group like to take with this research?

Check out this informative and entertaining YouTube video “Talking Science: The elusive art of the science talk” for excellent tips on delivering effective science presentations:



Delivering Your Presentations and Oral Presentation Rubric

We list specific tips below, but perhaps our most important advice is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, and PRACTICE before you present your research!!!


Always introduce yourself and your collaborators, or let teammates introduce themselves.

Make the most of your figures

Verbally present figure axes- both the label and units. Although you strive to make your figures easy to interpret, explaining axes allows the presenter to slow down and define the variables of interest and also clarifies the data manipulations for the audience.  Do not rush through slides showing your data; allow your audience time to process all of the information shown.  Direct their attention to trends/differences that you used to make a decision about your hypothesis or research question.

Speak loudly

…and project toward your audience instead of facing your slides! Many of us do not have booming orator voices. Therefore, we need to sound obnoxiously loud to ourselves at the front of the room in order to be heard in the back. The quickest way to lose your audience is by speaking too softly, looking only at the laptop computer on which your PPT slideshow is loaded, or by addressing your shoes.

Speak in a narrative style

If you need notes use them only as queues. Do not read your “speech.”  Speak it from memory. You are the expert- you know your work better than anyone else!

Be selective about what you say in a short talk

Resist the temptation to explain every detail, or every thought you have about your experiment. Focus on your most important points to fill in important details that allow for clarification and transitions between slides.

Guide your audience attention

Put up a PowerPoint slide or point out a particular section of your poster only a moment before you want to refer to it. Give the audience time to read it or you read it to them. Remove the slide, use a black slide, or stand in front of your poster if you want the audience to focus all their attention on your words.

***Some suggestions are paraphrased from Gordon H. Bower’s “Do’s and Don’ts of Brief Research Talks” Courtesy of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program, UW-Madison.***


Although you will be doing presentations throughout your experience in Biocore labs, in Biocore 382, 384 and 486 you will be asked to do a formal graded oral presentation and will be given feedback on your oral presentation skills. All Biocore instructors will use the following detailed rubric to assess your presentation. If you would like specific feedback on your presentation skills (over and above the feedback given on your experimental design and your science) before doing a “formal” please ask! This is a skill that develops over time and with practice. We understand that many (most!) people do not immediately enjoy public speaking.  However, we hope that you gain confidence as you improve within a supportive classroom environment.


See the following pages for Oral Presentation Rubric and the Conversion to Letter Grade chart. Please consult this rubric as you and your group practice your presentation. 


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Process of Science Companion: Science Communication by University of Wisconsin-Madison Biology Core Curriculum (Biocore) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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