How to present a memorable flash talk in 12 easy steps

Flash talks are a great way to give an introduction to your work, and whet people’s appetite for your research.

Generally flash talks last for 1 to 2 minutes, and presenters are normally allowed one simple PowerPoint slide or, in the case of virtual events, a 1 – 2 minute pre-recorded video. But is it really possible to present something really memorable within such limitations?

Here are some things to take into account when preparing your flash talk to make sure the audience remembers you, and contacts you after the session to find out more. Because that’s the goal, right?

1. Keep it brief

You should definitely start by giving a very brief introduction that makes people understand why your work is interesting, and ends by saying how people can contact you afterwards. Of course you can say where you’re from and your affiliation, but the critical thing is to attract to people’s attention.

2. Cover the basics

Answer the following questions:

  • Why is it interesting?
  • What is it about?
  • How did you do it?
  • With whom did you carry out the work?

3. Connect with the audience

For live events be sure to always look at the audience – don’t lose eye contact. Keep scanning the room for the duration of your talk, and definitely do not turn your back to them. In the case of a pre-recorded video, treat your camera like an audience and talk directly to it.

 4. Leave the audience asking for more

Try to build up the anticipation and attention of the people who are listening and watching– put out something you’ve investigated but don’t tell them the whole story. You want to leave them hanging and intrigued enough to want to find out more.

5. Be dynamic

Your flash talk is going to be short so your audience will generally be paying attention to you. Build up to something where you clearly emphasise one or two points. These are the sort of things that are going to bring their attention to the most important parts. Be enthusiastic – if you show that you’re really into your science people will come along and want to know more.

6. Don’t be afraid to use visual tools

If it’s relevant, there is no problem with using props in your flash talk. Alternatively, make your talk visually memorable by using dynamic diagrams, graphics and images. Videos will normally not be possible for live flash talks, so don’t rely on these.

7. Avoid special effects

It is possible to make something visually memorable without going overboard on big special effects such as PowerPoint animations. If your science is good it doesn’t need any fireworks.

8. Do the unexpected

If it fits with your character, you can try to make people laugh. Doing something that the audience is not expecting can be very effective. We’ve seen everything from interpretive dance to a guitar-accompanied talk – anything is possible! Just make sure it matches to who you are so that it appears natural.

9. Include your poster number

Definitely, definitely, definitely include your poster number during your flash talk! It will make it much easier for people to come and find you later on at the poster session.

10. Be a slide minimalist

As already mentioned, diagrams, graphs and images are great when you have only 1 or 2 slides at your disposal. Make sure though that there is a minimum of information on your slides to try to bring people into the main message – focus on the thing that you want them to remember.

11. Practise!

Like all talks, you need to practise beforehand! Even if you want to bring across that you’re relaxed and everything is quite informal there is no way around it – you’ve got to practise to be prepared.

12. Stick to the time limit

With a flash talk this is so important – the time limitations are extremely strict, and you will be moved off the stage when your time is up, or your video won’t be uploaded to a virtual event platform. So make sure you have condensed everything into the time provided, and don’t go over or you may be stopped mid-sentence!

Check out these examples of great flash talk slides!
Single-slide flash talk by Fariha Akter
Multi-slide flash talk by Pablo Gonzalez-Suarez

Original video with Dr. Cornelius Gross, EMBL Rome, and Dr. Francesca Peri, University of Zurich

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A sneak peek into the upcoming training programme

It’s safe to say that 2020 has been – and continues to be – a strange year! We have all been forced to adapt the way we live and think, and at EMBL it is no different.

Download our 2020 / 2021 poster!

Traditionally we would now be presenting a sneak peek of our 2021 training programme. However, since we have had to make a range of changes to adapt our programme to the current circumstances, we are doing things a bit differently this year! Our new poster includes the updated 2020 events (virtual of course!), as well as the planned training courses and conferences for the first half of 2021.

We hope to welcome people onsite in 2021, but have back-up plans in place should this not be possible! Our EMBO | EMBL Symposia series continues, and we continue to offer a range of EMBL Conferences, EMBO Workshops, and Courses – both established and new.  Ever wondered what all these different event types are? Here’s an explanation!

Our online training offerings are more popular than ever, so you also have the option to learn at your own pace with our train online and webinars to make sure you stay up-to-date with the latest scientific techniques!

The complete 2021 EMBL Course and Conference Programme will be published in November – if all goes to plan!

If you’d like to keep up-to-date with the latest news from the EMBL Course and Conference Office, please sign up to our mailing list. You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Download our 2020 / 2021 poster here!
To see the full list of upcoming events, please visit our events website.

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10 tips to create a scientific poster people want to stop at

Are you attending a conference and presenting a poster, but not sure where to start? Here are 10 tips to help you transform a good poster into a great one!

(And make sure you check out our scientific poster templates at the bottom!)

  1. Make it gripping!
    The scientific poster needs to captivate your audience from the beginning. Make sure you focus on what your key message is and put that clearly in your title.
  1. Keep the title short
    The title is what will make people either read your abstract and visit your poster or not. Keep the title short and snappy to make sure it draws interest.
  1. Leave out unnecessary words
    Make sure you only use words that are really necessary. Try to minimise the text, however make sure you clearly and succinctly describe the main conclusions from your project and the take-home messages.
  1. Make good use of graphics
    Focus on the graphics – these are what will catch the eye and explain the data in a way that’s easy to comprehend. Make sure you use graphics that are easy to understand, and stick to a consistent, clean layout.
  1. Don’t try to cram everything on the poster
    The poster is not the place to publish your entire research results. It serves as a networking tool that should attract attention, and help you start up conversations with other scientists. Include only the important information on the poster – YOU are there to provide any other information!
  1. Outline your methods
    Use one graphic, for example, which outlines the design of the study and the methodology that you’ve utilised. Follow this with graphics that convey the scientific results.
  1. Have clear take-home messages
    The take-home messages need to be clearly visualised and clearly described for them to be understood by your listeners.
  1. Know what’s important
    Work out what is the most important information on your poster, and make sure it is visible / readable from a distance in order to draw people who are walking past.
  1. Tailor your poster presentation to your audience
    When you’re presenting your poster to a listener, make sure that you assess their expertise level so that you can tailor your delivery to the person that’s standing in front of you. You don’t want to give the same level of details to somebody who already knows a bit about the subject as somebody who is completely unaware of the research area you’re in.
  2. Don’t forget credits!
    Be sure to include all acknowledgements and collaborators, as well as your name and affiliation on the poster.

Still unsure? Here are some scientific poster templates to help get you started!

Scientific poster template – pdf
Scientific poster template – powerpoint

Original video with Prof. Lars Steinmetz, EMBL Senior Scientist and Director of the Life Science Alliance

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Welcome to the new EMBL Events Blog!

Why do WE – the EMBL Course and Conference Team – need to blog, you might ask? Great question!

The EMBL Events Team runs one of the most extensive and renowned training programmes for scientists in the world, with over 25 conferences and 60 courses each year, predominantly at our sites in the UK and Germany. We have been training scientists for over 40 years, and are bursting with experience and tips for scientists which we don’t want to keep to ourselves!

Over the coming months we will provide you with how-tos, tips and tricks, videos, checklists, competitions, articles, new e-learning opportunities, and sometimes just something to make you laugh. We aim to provide you with the most up-to-date info on how to best advance your scientific career and expand your knowledge.

We also appreciate and encourage guest blog posts and feedback, so feel free to contact us at marketing@embl.de!

2019 Course and Conference Programme now online!

First up, take a look at what opportunities our course and conference programme has to offer in 2019. Our poster has just been finalised, so download it or visit our website and apply for the training that best suits you!

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