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Talking About Your Research

Listeners have one chance to hear you talk about your work and can't "re-read" when they have a question. In many situations, they may be talking to many people about a variety of research and will need something to remember yours. 

Below are some approaches to public speaking and presentations. You may find it helpful to practise before you talk to an audience, however big or small, about your research.

button  30/3/30 method of discussing your research

In some situations, you don’t know how much time you will have to speak to someone about your research. It’s useful to practise the 30/3/30 method, since it breaks your research down into manageable pieces, from the quick introduction to the detailed discussion:

  • 30 – Be able to articulate the key aspects of your research topic and findings/implications in the first 30 seconds to ensure you have your audience’s attention. 
  • 3 – Know how to summarise your research questions, methods and expand on findings/implications in 3 minutes. Be prepared to answer questions or engage with your audience on how it relates to them.
  • 30 - Have an analysis (and the data) well organised to provide a convincing and supported case within 30 minutes. You don’t need to carry a set of slides around with you everywhere you go, just be knowledgeable and confident when discussing your research in detail, especially your findings.

button  10/20/30 method for PowerPoint presentations

This method is a simple way of organising your presentation. It should have: ten slides, for the presentation to last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.

  • Ten slides: Ten is an optimal number of slides because you should not try to introduce more than ten concepts in a presentation. 
  • Twenty minutes: Most conferences or seminars will offer you a maximum of twenty minutes to speak. If you have ten slides, this is 2 minutes per slide, which is enough time for people to read as well as listen to you. 
  • Thirty point font: Keep your slides simple and clear, and readable from the back of the room. Never include every word you speak, otherwise the audience will stop listening!

button  Be an engaged listener

It is essential to be a good listener if you’re going to talk confidently about your research. Attend conferences and seminars to hear other people talk about similar research, and be willing to start conversations with others. It is flattering to be asked about your research – and that’s a simple opening question when you meet someone new. 

In order to listen actively to a speaker or someone else in a conversation (especially in a large group), you may find it helpful to do some or all of the following:

  • maintain eye contact, or at least face the speaker and sit attentively
  • don't interrupt the speaker, but don’t be afraid to ask a question
  • give non-verbal cues to show you are listening, e.g. nod your head
  • ask questions that allow the speaker to expand on a point they have made, but which also helps you to understand the relevance of their work to your own – this will start an engaging conversation


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