At the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Region H Conference this year I was able to present my dissertation research for the first time.  Graduate Student Rapid Fire pretentions comprised one session of the conference and gave five graduate students the opportunity to present their research to a diverse audience and receive feedback.  Members of the audience, including professors from Michigan Tech (the host school), SWE Leaders, and other interested volunteers were provided feedback forms to give to the presenters at the end of the session.

I was very grateful for the opportunity to have a safe place to practice presenting my research and I received some very helpful feedback.  Overall the feedback was very good and people responded well to my topic, however there was also some constructive lessons that I can use going forward and I thought might be useful to share. 

  • Before every presentation get to know your audience.  I made the mistake of assuming that an audience of engineers would know what was included in a traditional controls laboratory and what an inverted pendulum was.
  • Don’t forget best practices for content on PowerPoint slides.  The best rule of thumb I have heard is no more than 6 bullets with 6 words per bullet.  I had too much information and too many words on my slides in an effort to squeeze too much into five minutes.
  • Make sure you know how much time to spend on each slide, especially for very short talks.  This usually involves practicing your presentation several times with a timer.  When I was nervous during the presentation, I wasn’t paying too close to the time and spent too much time of the first few slides which led me to rush through the last ones.