Practice Makes Perfect

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

Irvine, CA, August 1st, 2014 — For some, it was a terrifying first experience; for others, the repetition of a task they’d faced before. But for all 10 of this year’s SURF-IT undergraduate students, who this week presented their research progress to-date, it was a practice session designed to help them improve delivery and supporting visuals, as well as increase their comfort level.

Marie Gilbert is developing resources for NGOs.

UROP director Said Shokair urged the students to focus on the significance of their projects – the “why-should-we-care” factor – as well as milestones achieved. The students were also cautioned to remember to discuss work intended for the last half of the summer program.

Shokair made several pre-presentation suggestions to the students. Make eye contact, modulate your voice and move around the room as you speak, he told them as they prepared to present their preliminary results to an audience of their peers and Calit2 staff.

Each student presented a seven-minute recap, supported by a PowerPoint presentation, of their work during the first half of the 10-week program. Then came the grueling part: a question-and-answer session followed by peer suggestions for improvement. The constructive criticism – which included “speak slower,” “keep your hands out of your pockets,” and “don’t use acronyms” – was intended to help prepare the young researchers for their final presentations at program’s end.

From left: Soheil Akhavan, Joe Mehrabi, Diane Shin, John Delshadi present their research.

From left: From left: Stefan Wenthe, Devin Held, Vasu Sharma do the same. All the students came away with several suggestions for improving their presentations.

They were also advised on the proper format for slide presentation – researcher’s name, project and mentor’s name should be on the first slide – and given tips for making their visuals more compelling. 

“Take these suggestions to heart,” Shokair advised the students. “We’re expecting drastic improvement before you make your final presentations.”