Have you ever listened to a presentation on a topic you really like, but still you got lost halfway? Or have you ever felt like an imposter at a conference, because you were not even able to even understand the introduction? Maybe it was not you; maybe we need to rethink the way presentations are given.

At some point in my PhD, I got tired of giving the same kind of presentations every time. You know, those containing a lot of text and having generic slide titles like “Results” and “Conclusion”. I decided to learn a new way of communicating; the assertion-evidence approach.

After being equipped with communication theory and practicing in a safe course environment, it was time to step out of my comfort zone out into the real world. I took part in the 13th Nordic Photosynthesis Conference in Copenhagen where I was selected to give a 15-minute talk about my research.

“Trying something new and different scared me. But in the end, it was worth the struggle.”

Fortunately, my supervisor supported the idea of trying the assertion-evidence approach. I was tremendously nervous already weeks before the presentation. What would the other conference participants think? Would they laugh at me? Would they boo? Would I become known as the foolish PhD student who does not know how to science? Or would my presentation just drown in the huge amount of presentations at the conference?

Successful talk

There it was, the moment of truth: after many practice runs, I finally gave my talk…and it was a huge success! The questions asked after the presentation indicated that I explained the theoretical background well. My performance resulted in lively discussions with other researchers during the rest of the conference, thereby helping me to establish new contacts within the research community. I received quite some compliments, too, and as you might understand, I was proud of what I achieved. Additionally, I was often approached about my way of presenting. Other scientists were curious about the assertion-evidence approach and I recommended them to look into an introduction.

Change takes time

I returned to Trondheim with the feeling that it was worth to try something new. I am more than ever convinced that scientific communication is a skill that needs to be improved during my next years as a researcher. I am trying to spread the word about the assertion-evidence approach, and until now, I have only received positive feedback. It seems that I am not the only one who wanted scientific presentations to change. However, the ‘traditional’ way of presenting is well rooted in the scientific community, and change always takes time. I will post updates from my quest for change in the future, so be sure to check back in every now and then!

An example of an assertion-evidence slide with the assertion on top and the evidence in the form of a movie (in the original presentation) to show the differences in growth. The picture on the left refers back to the mapping slide at the beginning of the presentation.


Before I made the presentation, I thought of the main messages I wanted to communicate. I then sorted them in a stepwise manner so that the audience can follow along. I built up the assertions in the presentation on these messages.


Presenting my research in front of a scientific audience was thrilling and exciting!


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