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The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid Paperback – August 1, 2007

22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0387955551 ISBN-10: 0387955550

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Editorial Reviews

Review

From the reviews:

Praise for Michael Alley's THE CRAFT OF SCIENTIFIC PRESENTATIONS:

PHYSICS TODAY

"Alley's [book has] elements of conversation that engage a reader in ways a list of rules would not. [It] can be profitably read from cover to cover, but [it] can also be opened to a specific section for reference ... The Craft of Scientific Presentations is informal in tone but serious in intent. Alley makes the reader think about the point of a presentation, about different kinds of presentations, about different techniques - from writing on a blackboard to using computer slide shows. He shows how to think about finding the right words, structure, and images. He is at his best discussing well-chosen examples from both great and lesser-known lecturers, and his counsel to anticipate what could go wrong is sage advice ... Spending time with [this book] will give you food for thought and the encouragement to practice, practice, practice!"

 

PHYSICS WORLD

"The book does contain much good advice. This is summarised in useful tables and checklists that are easy to locate and refer to subsequently. Having just returned from a large international conference, I only wish that many of the speakers had studied Alley's book."

 

THE JOURNAL OF THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION OF SCIENCE EDITORS

"A book that one can read for pleasure and self-improvement, as well as utilize as a manual... A valuable addition to the libraries of scientific institutions and I have already recommended it to several of my research organization clients."

 

DANIEL J. INMAN, DIRECTOR
CENTER FOR INTELLIGENT MATERIAL SYSTEMS

"Alley has revamped the way our research center makes presentations—particularly the way we design our presentation slides."

CHRISTENE MOORE, COMMUNICATION INSTRUCTOR
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN

"This book fills a void by illustrating key issues and difficulties in oral presentations with the experiences of others."

"Scientific presentation, whether for a gathering of colleagues or a general audience, benefit from techniques of stagecraft and rhetoric. … The Craft of Scientific Presentations is informal in tone but serious in intend. Alley makes the reader think about the point of a presentation, about different kinds of presentations, and about different techniques … . He is at his best discussing well-chosen examples from both great and lesser-known lecturers, and his counsel to anticipate what could go wrong is sage advice." (Chris Quigg, Physics Today, July, 2004)

"The author, an experienced teacher, adds numerous examples not only from his praxis, but found in many biographies, memorial books, and articles of well known scientists and speakers. … Due to the applied form the book presents amusing reading for everybody … . Forty-one illustrations accompany the text … . Beginners in presenting speeches will find the book a source of both useful and interesting information, experienced lecturers can learn many amazing stories from the history of science." (Z. Šesták, Photosynthetica, Vol. 41 (4), 2003)

"What makes an oral presentation effective? The Craft of Presentations considers presentations made to persuade an audience to adopt some course of action (such as funding a proposal) as well as presentations made to communicate information … . Its goal is to provide you with the insights and tools to let you learn from your own presentations until they become outstanding." (Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics, Vol. 84 (1-2), 2003)

"A failure to communicate the principal message of a scientific presentation can have literally catastrophic consequences. … the book does contain much good advice. This is summarised in useful tables and checklists that are easy to locate and refer to subsequently. Having just returned from a large international conference, I only wish that many of the speakers had studied Alley’s book." (Keith McEwen, Physics World, October, 2003)

"Rather than present a list of simple rules for giving scientific presentations, this book looks at the styles of successful presenters such as Boltzmann, Einstein, Feynman, Levi-Montalcini and Linus Pauling … . The bulk of the book considers in detail ten critical errors that undermine the performance of the speaker, from giving the wrong speech to not preparing enough to not paying attention and loosing composure." (Book News on the Internet, June, 2003)

From the Author

A revolution is occurring in the way that scientists and engineers are making presentations. The revolution is small, but many of the scientists and engineers breaking away from PowerPoint's default structure of a topic-phrase headline supported by bulleted points are making names for themselves: Janine Benyus, Brian Cox, Jill Bolte Taylor. This book tries to present the essence of that revolution by showing you what distinguishes the excellent scientific talks on TED.com as well as excellent presentations at scientific conferences and in technical meetings. After reading this book, you will know when to blank the screen during a scientific talk and how to empower that part of the presentation. Also, for those occasions in which you do use slides, you will create scenes that are truly for the audience, rather than the sad practice of projecting slides that simply present the speaker's notes. If you want to give a mediocre presentation, do what everybody else does. If you want to communicate your science and engineering in an understandable, memorable, and persuasive way, consider this book. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Springer (August 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0387955550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0387955551
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #564,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Holding a master of science in electrical engineering from Texas Tech and a master of fine arts in writing from the University of Alabama, Michael Alley is an associate professor of engineering communication at Penn State. He is the author of The Craft of Scientific Writing, 3rd ed., and The Craft of Scientific Presentations, 2nd ed. (2013). Over the past twenty years, he has taught writing and presenting to scientists and engineers across the United States and in Europe, Asia, and South America. Sites include Penn State, MIT, Virginia Tech, the University of Texas, the University of Illinois, Harvard Medical School, Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Lawrence Livermore Lab, United Technologies, Areva Nuclear Power, the Army Corps of Engineers, Simula Research Laboratory (Norway), the Institute for Energy Technology (Norway), the European Space Organization (Chile), the University of Sao Paulo, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Seoul National University, the University of Osaka, the University of Oslo, the University of Barcelona, and the University of Seville. Alley's web-site on writing is the first Google.com listing for the topic of "engineering writing" and his web-site on speaking is the first Google.com listing for "presentation slides." When not writing or teaching, he can be found hiking through forests with his wife and dogs.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
I give about a dozen technical presentations a year at trade shows, and I learned a lot from this book. I am changing my Powerpoint slides using many of the tips in this book, including complete sentence in the headline. I had designed my slides to help me remember my points. I should have been designing them so the audience could understand them. Besides giving me a better understanding of what I am trying to accomplish, the book was a fun read with numerous stories from the famous and not so famous. There were times it was actually hard to put the book down.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Robert Leedom on March 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
After decades of sitting through terrible technical presentations by hapless fellow engineers (who, to be fair, had never been given the time or opportunity for the proper training), I'd had enough. With plenty of examples of misguided slides to serve as comic relief, I created a one-hour seminar containing the essentials of an effective scientific presentation. Since 1999, I've offered the seminar a few times a year at East Coast and California sites of our (very large) corporation for free at lunchtime, for anyone who cared to attend. So far, nearly 1500 people have done so.

Michael Alley's text is a perfect fit with the advice I dispense. Although we've never met, it's apparent that our analyses of the problem areas in bad technical presentations are very similar. He and I stress many of the same points, a key one being to place a sentence title (or "message", as I put it) at the top of every slide.

I've always wanted to point my audiences to a deeper reference than the slides and notes that accompany my (intentionally short) talk. Michael Alley has supplied that reference.

Highly recommended.

Bob Leedom
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the first of Michael Alley's books that I have read and I'm ordering his other two "The Craft Of..." books tonight. He is terrific at getting technical information across in an engaging and entertaining way. The book is full of short stories about scientists (some famous, like Einstein, Feynman and McClintock) and incidents, which he uses as examples to get his points across. A critical resource for anyone who gives technical presentations. I'm buying copies for each of my graduate students.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By E. Anderson on February 22, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book details a history of scientists and engineers that have made excellent presentations and why. The book then effectively contrasts those styles with poor presentation techniques. The author also presents readers with different methodologies for presenting to diverse audiences. Every suggestion is supported with historical instances of presenters that communicated their ideas effectively. The book proved not to be another "how to make cool PowerPoint slide book." The majority of the text is invested in the structure of the presentation. The book serves as a "how to" for undergraduates, post doctoral fellows and speech trainers alike.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Scientist and Dad of 2 Boys on July 23, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book suggests ways to go beyond the "stock" powerpoint style presentation scheme of titles and bullets to create better presentations. What do I mean by better? Basically, the goal is to create a more narrative presenation. Rather than a presentation of lists of facts, a good scientific presentation also tells a story, and at the same time elucidates a finding in clear detail.

Getting someone to think or create a presentation in this way is a difficult thing to teach, and so the book takes a conversational tone and has plenty of examples and counter examples. It also discusses the various expectations of author, audience, and other politicos who might be in the room, and suggests ways to meet those expectations. I recently put the tactics to good use, for instance, I had picutres of the actual elements of the apparatus over schematic as I spoke about them. It was very effective, and kept the audience engaged.

Bottom line, I recommend this book if you want to improve your style or if you are nervous about starting out in the world of scientific presentation. It also helps with confidence to know you've worked hard on improving your style, your audience will appreciate it as well.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By telelover on September 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
I present daily at medical school in Italy - my job is teaching how to present in fact. This book suggests what to do and what to avoid when facing this dramatic situation. Great stuff here concerning every aspect of preparing and delivery of a talk. Loved it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tanya on July 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Although this is a little old fashioned in its style and content (particularly the photos and graphic style), I was sufficiently engaged with the content and anecdotes to read it right through in one evening. I learnt some new facts and had an insight into the style and ideas of someone who approaches fine lectures and presentations with great care. This made it worthwhile. It is a delightful change not to be assaulted by ego or self assurance. There is one irritating characteristic of style - the repeated use of "granted".
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael Innes on July 29, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The presentation of theory, data and opinion to audiences is ubiquitous, in schools, universities, scientific conferences and in media and public relations fora. What should be the case that the message is primary and the medium secondary has been eroded. The roles have to a degree been reversed, largely through the accessibility of Powerpoint. Creating an argument, building a case with data and inference, the very nature of education, is difficult and not something which can be done by all. What had been relatively easy for some, to make a presentation interesting and persuasible to an audience, but difficult for many, seemed to be available through the default options of the Microsoft software. And the diffusion of the methodology was immediate and pervasive. It is almost impossible to go to a meeting, conference or school without there being some form of Powerpoint without attendant trivia, irrelevance or distraction being dominant. Many people have suffered either through sitting in front of a presentation or from preparing one. There has as a result been something of an industry in presenting alternatives. This book is one of the outcomes.

This is a very interesting and accessible account of what can be done with slide presentations to get the message across and to make it memorable. It is useful in giving hints and examples of what to do and how to do it. It benefits from having been developed from personal experience and there are a plethora of examples and anecdotes that give substance to the points made.

As a primer on how to make a presentation it is valuable and worth reading and building upon. But there is a theory implicit in the craft.
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