Learning from the Laureates: Harold Kroto's presentation tips

By Guest Author 03/07/2013 1


University of Canterbury PhD chemistry student Sandra Atkinson is one of 15 young scientists from around the world selected to attend a five day event following the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany. She is rubbing shoulders with Nobel Laureates all week and blogging about it here on Sciblogs…

by Sandra Atkinson

Sandra Atkinson
Sandra Atkinson

I thought I’d better start off by giving a short introduction about myself. My name is Sandra Atkinson and I’m a PhD student at the University of Canterbury studying Chemistry. I’m working in the field of gas-phase electron diffraction and am almost 1.5 years through my PhD with my supervisor Dr Sarah Masters. If you are interested in our research you can look us up on the Masters group website.

This blog will be one of a series of blogs related to my time in Lindau in Germany attending the prestigious 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Lindau is located in the south of Germany by Lake Konstanz (or spelt Lake Constance) and all of the events are held off the mainland on the Island of Lindau. The meeting runs for a week and involves a series of lectures and discussions with 35 Nobel Laureates and young researchers from all around the world (78 countries). It is a very big honour to attend such an event as I am one of 625 young researchers to attend and you can only the meeting once, unless you become a Nobel Laureate of course.

I’m lucky enough to be staying with one of 40 host families in Germany. My host family, Sandra and Dominik Traenkle (along with their two children, two dogs and two guinea pigs), have been very hospitable since I have arrived. It is currently their fourth year hosting guests of the Lindau meetings.

Today was the first day of lectures with the Nobel Laureates. What an experience!

Harold Kroto’s dream as a child was to become Superman
Harold Kroto’s dream as a child was to become Superman

Throughout the morning we had presentations from Brian Koblika, Gerhard Ertl, Akira Suzuki, David Wineland, Serge Haroche, John Walker and Hartmut Michel. The presentations covered a range of topics from G Protein Coupled Receptors to Quantum Chemistry.

Often the Nobel Laureates would keep on talking well past their assigned times, even when approached by the chairperson to wrap it up, but their presentations were often thought provoking. However, I won’t go into detail about their talks here (you can listen to the audio of their lectures on the website), as it was the session in the afternoon by Harold Kroto that was the highlight of my day.

Harold W. Kroto

Workshop: Presentation Skills

Harold gave a brilliant presentation and highlighted lots of important things that we should do (or not do) in our presentations. He had addressed points that many of us had heard before regarding techniques, such as suggesting that we take the good points from other presentations we have seen and being passionate about the presentation or else you can’t make other people interested in it. However, he mentioned many ideas that I don’t think many of us had come across before.

The ones that stand out in my mind include the use of hyperlinks to help organise many ideas within a presentation. Harold would use them to link to topics he had prepared (as sub-presentations) and he showed us that by using them it was easier to shuffle around topics within a presentation, and if you ran out of time you could skip over the topic without having to skip over a lot of slides as well. Harold also mentioned that we shouldn’t use laser pointers to draw the eye, but rather we should use slide animation to draw the audience’s attention to where you want them to look on your slide. And if something is on your slide that you aren’t going to mention you should leave it out completely.

Harold also mentioned his passion for communicating science, which is the main focus of the conference. He mentioned that as part of assessment he would get his students to make an online presentation, synching the video with the PowerPoint slides. We saw examples of some of his students who had gone onto successful ventures as a result of an employer seeing the presentations. You can find more information through his website (www.vega.org.uk).

Following Harold’s presentation we all moved back to the Inselhalle for dinner and found that the Nobel Laureate’s were placed around the tables to intermingle with the participants. I sat at Harold Kroto’s table, right next to him, and our table had great discussions with him and his wife Margaret about science in general, where we were from and advice for doing scientific research well.

The evening concluded with a traditional Polonaise dance. It was a great opportunity to intermingle with some of the other participants some more, as well as have a bit of fun at the end of a long day! It’s going to be another long day for me tomorrow, with a science breakfast starting at 7am and an academic dinner in the evening. However I’m looking forward to it!

All of the photos and media recordings from the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting can be accessed online from this website  (you may need to install Silverlight to access some features). There are already a few photos from earlier today on there. 


One Response to “Learning from the Laureates: Harold Kroto's presentation tips”

  • I am so envious, Sandra, it sounds like you are having a fantastic time. The talk by Professor Kroto sounds awesome, I’d love to see more about his “subpresentation approach”