Student review: Presenting Science: A Practical Guide to Giving a Good Talk

May 27, 2010

Authors: Cigdem Issever and Ken Peach

Edition: First Publisher Oxford University Press

Pages: 130

Price: £39.95 and £19.95

ISBN 9780199549085 and 9092

There is still too little emphasis on presentational skills in science. It's getting better, I agree, but we're not there yet. The spotlight is currently on outreach activities, but what about when it comes to presenting to our peers?

The whole of science is fascinating and a good proportion of scientists love what they do, but if we can't even keep our peers interested, how are we supposed to justify to the public where all that government money is going?

We can easily fall into the trap of thinking that just because we and our closest colleagues understand something, it will be obvious to everyone else. We know we do it and it's simple, right? Then why do we need a book to tell us this? The answer is that although the book may be full of things that make the reader say "Of course!", it is equally full of things that will be closely followed by utterances of "Why didn't I think of that?" That's the point - we have all heard plenty of talks but sometimes we need someone else to point out what really makes a good one.

Presenting Science will not transform you into a confident presenter producing perfect presentations in the few hours it takes you to read the book - that takes a lot of time and effort. But the book will provide you with all the advice you need to walk at least part-way along that path to presentation brilliance.

Colour is used sparingly here and, if I were to be picky, I would have preferred a more visually stimulating book. However, there are some colour plates of the slides the authors discuss. The chapters are well organised in a logical order with a thorough index that makes reference easy.

Overall, I like this book; the writing is informative, friendly and fuss-free. It's written by physicists, so you know they know where you're coming from. It covers every aspect of presenting - from informal meetings to project/grant proposals and conferences. It gives nice little quotes and relevant examples as food for thought throughout. Most importantly, it gives definitive advice on what makes a good (or bad) PowerPoint slide.

In conclusion, this book is perfect for reading on train journeys when you have a couple of hours to dedicate to pondering your presenting style - or what you'd like your presenting style to be.

Who is it for? Anyone in science.

Presentation: It looks like it's written in LaTeX.

Would you recommend it? Yes. Even if you don't struggle with presentations, this book will help you get better and that's never a bad thing.

Highly recommended

Introduction to Nanoscience

Author: S.M. Lindsay

Edition: First

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Pages: 472

Price: £69.95 and £35.00

ISBN 9780199544202 and 4219

Suitable for anyone with some science or maths background and an enthusiasm for nano. Each chapter includes exercises and a bibliography; appendices include exercise answers and (brief) coverage of all the relevant maths, as well as Feynman's famous lecture, "There's plenty of room at the bottom". An accompanying DVD offers colour images, movies and a set of PowerPoint presentations that Lindsay uses for his own lecture course on the subject. If I were the author, I'd feel very proud of the completeness of this book: it's a whole course in itself!

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