The Craft of Scientific Presentations:
A Presentations Workshop for Engineers and Scientists

Michael Alley
Penn State
Phone: (814)867-0251

Slide Template:
Slide Template

Described here is a workshop that is designed to help you, the scientist or engineer, improve your presentations. Featured in the workshop is an assertion-evidence strategy that is much more effective than the typical topic-subtopic approach at communicating engineering and science. The workshop has three goals: (1) to show participants how to make their scientific presentations more informative and persuasive; (2) to help participants craft a new presentation that follows the assertion-evidence strategy taught in the course; and (3) to give participants feedback on that presentation. The workshop consists of lectures, discussions, exercises, and practice presentations.

Grounded in examples from engineering and science, the workshop addresses the most common problems that pull down the presentations of engineers, scientists, and technical professionals. This workshop has been taught at the Army Research Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Institute for Energy Technology (Norway), Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, the Society for Optical Engineers, the University of Barcelona, the University of Illinois, the University of Oslo, and Virginia Tech.
The workshop instructor, Michael Alley, is the author of The Craft of Scientific Presentations (Springer-Verlag). He holds a master of science in electrical engineering and a master of fine arts in writing. He also conducts research into the effect of different slide designs on audience understanding and retention.
The following schedule presents the topics, exercises, and readings for the workshop on presentations. The readings are from The Craft of Scientific Presentations.

Time Topic/Activity Reading/Activity
Morning Formal Class
Structure of presentations
Visual aids of presentations
Delivery of presentations
Chapters 1-3
Chapter 4
Chapters 5-6
Afternoon Presentations by participants Critiques of participants' presentations

Presentation Assignment

In a critiquing session, you are to make a short presentation about a scientific or technical project on which you are working. Your presentation, which should be no more than 10 minutes and contain no more than 7 slides, should identify an overview or slice of a project on which you are working. To create these slides, you are strongly recommended to begin with this template. You are also advised to look at sample slides on this web-page. Please email these slides to the the instructor as a pre-workshop assignment.

Texts and Web Resources

Alley, Michael, The Craft of Scientific Presentations (New York: Springer-Verlag, 2003), 242 pages.

"Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides," Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students, ed. by M. Alley, L. Crowley, J. Donnell and C. Moore (Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Tech, 2006), free resource.

Last updated 11/2006