From complexity to clarity: Cochrane unveils #BetterPresentations templates for accessible and engaging talks at the Cochrane London Colloquium
The Cochrane Colloquium is a premier event for those interested in evidence-based healthcare decision-making. It brings together individuals involved in evidence production, dissemination, implementation, and policy-making, as well as those making individual healthcare decisions. The 2023 Cochrane Colloquium will take place in London, UK from 4th to 6th of September 2023, with satellite events on 3rd of September. Registration is still open!
Presentations form a cornerstone of the Cochrane London Colloquium, providing a platform for in-depth exploration of topics and fostering future collaborations. With approximately 46 long oral presentations and 180 short oral presentations scheduled this year, the importance of accessibility in these sessions cannot be overstated. By embracing accessible presentations, the colloquium aims to enhance knowledge transfer, particularly for individuals whose native language is not English or who may face challenges related to disabilities or neurodivergence.
To address this challenge, we have collaborated with a team of researchers who are investigating the accessibility of presentations at academic conferences. As part of their work, they have created Cochrane Colloquium poster templates based on the latest evidence. In their ongoing efforts to drive innovation, the team has now developed Cochrane Colloquium PowerPoint presentation templates. Eager to delve into their evidence-based work, we sat down with the team to gain deeper insights into their latest contributions.
Can you tell us a bit about your elite research team so we have an understanding of how you are approaching academic posters and presentations?
Sure! We’ve built a diverse team of people from across IPG Health (Emily Messina, James Wells, Noofa Hannan, and Anja Petersen), and our team includes Zen Faulkes, author of the book “Better Posters” and founder of the Better Posters blog, Mike Morrison, the psychologist who created a redesign for scientific posters that went viral and started the #BetterPoster movement. We’ve all been to conferences where and crowded poster halls with posters just packed with information and gotten lost in talks with either too few slides or way too many slides. So we wanted to gather some data, specifically from those with accessibility needs or disabilities, on how we can make conference presentations a better, more accessible experience, for everyone.
Similar to academic posters, the presentation’s role is to communicate the top research insights very quickly and engagingly. What do you see as the unique challenges that presentations give over posters?
Presentations are given more physical time to play out in front of a captive audience; you have the opportunity to fit in more information and provide both audio and visual communication. But it is still important to keep to your key message. There is a tendency sometimes to want to cram as much information into a talk as possible. However, this leads to a talk where the audience is overloaded and doesn’t remember half of what was presented. So in oral presentations, its also important to keep to your core message and keep in mind how much time you have.
Additionally, the extended platform of oral presentations also presents challenges —balancing the inclusion of ample information while ensuring accessibility for individuals with low vision, processing disorders, or other environmental conditions of the room such as dim lighting or sound distortion. You also need to ensure that anyone who may be hard of hearing or D/deaf, or perhaps neurodivergent, or folks who may struggle with the speakers accent or language can still follow along. A clear, concise, and decluttered presentation can help navigate through these challenges!
Could you elaborate on the recommendations included about reducing clutter in presentations?
Sure! Our data show that conference attendees really want large, readable figures along with clear and concise text. Research indicates this greatly improves information retention. It's crucial to include only the necessary content to tell your story, as clutter can distract and confuse the audience. We encourage presenters to triage any additional content and ask themselves, "Does this enhance the clarity of my message?" If not, it's best to leave it out.
The idea is to have just enough information on the slide to reinforce your message and so that if the audience misses something you said, they can still follow along. Everything else should be left off the slide.
How important is plain language in creating accessible presentations?
The significance of plain language cannot be overstated! The Cochrane Community has already recognized its importance through the inclusion of plain language summaries with each Cochrane Review. However, the need for plain language extends to presentations as well. By employing clear, concise, and jargon-free language, researchers can successfully convey their findings to a wider audience. Prioritizing clarity and avoiding unnecessary complexity is crucial in ensuring effective communication. This holds particular relevance at Cochrane London, where the audience comprises individuals ranging from patients to advanced researchers.
Cochrane is adopting the #BetterPreseration design as the official presentation template for the Cochrane Colloquium. What can presenters expect?
Our aim is to empower researchers to effectively communicate their work to a diverse audience while ensuring accessibility and clarity. By adopting the #BetterPresentations templates, researchers can elevate the impact of their findings, facilitate knowledge transfer, and foster inclusivity within academic conferences. The #BetterPresentations templates are fully editable, allowing researchers to include their institution's logo and adapt the templates to suit the requirements of various academic conferences. This flexibility ensures that the templates can be used for the Cochrane London Colloquium or any other academic event.
And please get creative in how you make your presentations ‘feel’! Communicating study-relevant emotion is part of good science communication. We're excited to see what you come up with; please tag your social media posts about your presentations with #BetterPreserntations so we can see them!
And what can attendees of the Colloquium expect?
With the implementation of more engaging presentations, the Cochrane London Colloquium aims to delve into the fascinating and captivating aspects of research, enabling attendees to swiftly identify the presentations that align with their interests. This will pave the way for meaningful follow-up discussions with presenters, providing a valuable opportunity to delve deeper into the subject matter. We are looking forward to getting attendees' feedback, which will be collected through the official post-Colloquium survey. Your insights will play a crucial role in shaping future iterations of templates and ensuring an even more enriching experience for all.