IBM P&S Five Minute Poster Talks

I attended last week’s IBM Privacy and Security Day where a bunch of IBMers and area security researchers got together to talk about the research they are doing to protect our identities and our systems.

One short session of the day, just before lunch, as a poster talk where several grad student researchers are given five minutes each to present their work and convince people to visit them at the poster session after lunch. Columbia’s representatives presented some interesting researchers, but were the worst five minute presenters.

Talking points for a five-minute, non-math pitch:

  1. Do: Give the audience, in 75 words, what the topic is, without moving past your title slide.
  2. Do Not: Reference any diagrams or equations during those 75 words.
  3. Do: Give the audience a small sense of how your work is novel compared to previous work, just to show you’ve done some reading.
  4. Do Not: List papers by other authors and describe the research they presented there.
  5. Do: Tell the audience what the topic is again, using a simple diagram.
  6. Do Not: Reference any equations.
  7. Do: Allow the diagram to reinforce what you tell them
  8. Do Not: Let what you tell them reinforce the diagram.

Plan your talk as if you were only given three minutes. That’s more or less the amount of substance you’ll probably be able to cover in five come delivery time. The five-minute poster talk is supposed to entice the audience to come look at your poster, not bore them before they even see it. It’s your time to have the explicit attention of your audience.

Dale Carnegie’s “The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking” is a fantastic resource for this. I bought it a long time ago when I was somewhat fearful of public speaking; it didn’t help, but it helped me understand what an audience wants and needs to hear. (In fact, I need to reread that book to refresh my memory of the particulars).

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