Instructions for Preparing Tester Symposium Abstracts

Your abstract should concisely summarize the study's specific objective(s), methods, results, and major conclusions. Do not say "results will be discussed" because that is not informative and everyone will know what that really means!

Presentation requirements include:

  • If your presentation topic is a repeat, then you must include new data
  • If your presentation was given at another scientific meeting, then the talk should have a different title and not contain the same presentation.
  • If you've graduated within one year and not presented data at Tester's, you may present. However, you are not eligible for an award and will be admitted depending on space availability
  • Multiple presentations are allowed, but only on a space availability basis
  • Many students have asked if data are necessary to give a presentation. Data (even preliminary) are strongly suggested and desirable, but are not absolutely required. However, the abstract and presentation should follow a standard scientific presentation format (see Sample Abstract and "Hints on Giving a Good Talk").

Poster Presentation Tips

The information (e.g., each author's name, institution, and title) in the banner heading across the top of your poster should be exactly the same as that in the submitted abstract. The heading should be large enough to be read from approximately 20 feet away.

Your poster presentation should include the abstract, an introduction to the general topic, your reason for doing the work, an explanation of your methods, a summary of results, and a clear conclusion regarding the contribution of the work to science. Your poster may include charts, graphs, tables, maps, illustrations, and pictures. It should be easy to follow the flow of information with titles provided for any graphics and each section clearly labeled. Text on the poster should be large enough to be read from 5 to 10 feet away.

Oral Presentation Tips (Some Hints on Giving a Good 15 Minute Talk)

Text on visual materials should be at least 18-point font size in order to be easily readable from the back of each meeting room. Tables should include no more than three columns of information, with a minimum number of rows to make the points required. For maximum visibility, use large block lettering.

Avoid busy and low contrast backgrounds. A simple white background with dark-colored text or a dark background with light-colored text is very effective. A shaded background that transitions from dark to light can make words difficult to read as the contrast changes. Use contrasting, bright colors to delineate between categories, but keep it simple by using a maximum of four colors per slide.

Bar graphs, pie charts, and line graphs can be effective tools to show trends and statistics. Simplify the graphs or show more of them. Highlighted bullets on successive frames can effectively summarize key points. As slide presentations utilize a "horizontal" format-more wide than tall-you will need to "zoom" down in order to fit a "vertical" slide onto a projection screen. Because a projectionist may not always be available to manually zoom the image size, it may be best to avoid vertical format slides whenever possible.

Never use typed (i.e., literally typed on a typewriter) text as a slide. This is a very ineffective use of the medium and always looks unattractive. Create text in a graphics program. Avoid the "ransom note" look by using no more than two typefaces (i.e., fonts) and limit yourself to a maximum of four or five different font sizes to ensure text is legible. Use a font large enough to be seen from the back of the room. If necessary, provide printed handouts of your presentation that include specific details or explanations. Remember, when viewed from 9 feet away, a slide projected on a 15-inch monitor looks approximately the same as a slide held at arm's length. Use this test to verify that each of your slides will be legible from everywhere in the meeting room.

(From ESA website


General Strategy

You are in a battle with the audience: at any time they can nod off or start working on something else (pay attention to how fast this happens to faculty in the weekly seminar). Your job is to keep them interested.
Enthusiasm will go a long way and is infectious. Assume that people will remember one thing about your talk. What do you want it to be?
Detail is the great enemy.


  • Get them interested with the title. Don't make it too specific, and let it convey information.
  • In your introduction, you must convince the listeners why this problem might interest them and give a sense of what your contribution is. Start with the motivating phenomenon or with an unsolved problem -- give them something interesting.
  • Use simple fonts and use boldface.
  • NEVER put up a table.

Quantitative and Logistical Issues
You have 15 minutes total. NEVER run over. Try not to go shorter than 1 minute under. Organize your time approximately like this:

  • 2 minutes for the introduction
  • 8-9 minutes to describe the work
  • 2 minutes for wrap up
  • Allow 2-3 minutes for questions from the audience.
  • Plan on 1 minute per slide or overhead.

A Parting Thought

Last Modified: 
12/20/2013 at 10:12am