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Guide to successful communications
Communication strategy
Media relations
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• The spoken word

When giving a spoken presentation to a mixed and predominantly non-specialised audience, many of the remarks mentioned in the section on ‘Media relations’ are equally applicable or adaptable, i.e.:

  • Keep the presentation clear, simple and to the point;
  • Structure the message so that your key point is the one that will be retained most strongly in listeners’ minds (Some sound advice on how to achieve this is contained in an article entitled ‘Speechwriting under the gun’, published on the Internet by Harvard Business School);
  • Avoid complex sentence constructions and obscure or slang words; many in the audience may be coping with a language that is not their mother tongue;
  • Maintain the technical content at a level you believe the average person will understand;
  • Eliminate unnecessary scientific jargon and Eurospeak; and
  • Communicate your enthusiasm, and try to incorporate interesting or amusing anecdotes that will retain listeners’ attention.

Visual support

Attractive slides add visual interest to spoken presentations, and help to explain points that cannot easily be made in words alone. PowerPoint is the commonly accepted standard for such visual support, and most conference facilities are equipped to handle slide sequences created in this format. But, all of your efforts will be wasted if the audience cannot read or interpret the projected images! It is vital to THINK SIMPLE and THINK LARGE. In fact, layouts should be twice as simple and four times as bold as those used for paper documents.

It is also preferable to have more slides with less information on each slide, than fewer, more detailed, slides. With a disciplined approach, it will take exactly the same amount of time to talk through one idea on each of six slides as it does to discuss six ideas on one slide. In addition, the on-screen changes will add dynamism and visual excitement.

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Text slides

  • Because presentations often take place in large conference rooms, small type sizes are likely to be illegible to at least some of the audience. Choose:
    a minimum of 24-point for ALL CAPITALS texts, and at least 32-point for Capitals and Lower Case– and do not be afraid to use even larger sizes;
  • For optimal legibility, select a ‘sans serif’ typeface such as Arial, in preference to a serif face like Times;
  • Limit texts to a maximum of six lines per slide, with individual points covered in a single line, wherever possible;
  • Adopt a ‘telegram’ or ‘text message’ style, eliminating all unnecessary words;

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Synergies can be created thus contributing to improve the quality of life in all parts of the world

  • Round off numbers, and use symbols in place of words – e.g. ‘%’, instead of ‘percent’;
  • Include no more than one sub-level to bullet points;
Individual projects
– already large in size and partnership (e.g. biomaterials)
– small but with a great extension potentiality (e.g. nanotechnologies)
  • Incorporate photographs that complement the texts, but ensure that these are also large and clear enough for easy recognition. And when a photograph is included, reduce the volume of text accordingly;
  • Bold text carries more weight, so use it for main titles and, where appropriate, to highlight key words (although this can also be done by means of contrasting colours);
  • Employ colour with purpose, not as decoration – too many colours are confusing and distracting; and
  • Use light-coloured texts against dark backgrounds, rather than vice versa. In a projected slide, white is the brightest colour, followed by yellow, light blue, etc. (Avoid red or green texts against dark backgrounds – especially for slides that will be distributed in black/white printed form, as the contrast will be minimal.).

Diagrams and tables

  • Keep diagrams simple; eliminate any detail that is not essential in making your point;
  • Aim to use not more than four colours per diagram. Present the most important data in the brightest colours, and consistently display related data in the same colour;
  • Use a scale along either the horizontal or vertical axis of a graph, bar chart, or column chart instead of numbers at the ends of the bars or columns; and
  • Do not include footnotes or references (unless you are presenting data that is proprietary to a third party requiring attribution).

Finally, never forget that the best way to be a successful presenter is to REHEARSE… REHEARSE… REHEARSE…

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