Cover Story

A candidate for an opening in an academic department needs the right content, but smooth presentation is also vital, say psychology department heads and early-career professors. Essentials to delivering the address effectively include:

  • Timing. Work out exactly how many minutes it takes to deliver your talk, and make sure you leave enough time for questions. Your presentation should last between 40 and 45 minutes, with a question-and-answer period of 15 to 20 minutes.

  • Pacing. Don't talk too fast or too slow, and pause for a few seconds between the major sections of your talk to give your audience a chance to absorb your main points.

  • Passion. Bring some zeal to your talk: Communicate why the questions you've investigated matter to you, to your audience and to psychology.

  • Humor. Look for a chance to slip in a cartoon to make a quick point, but be careful with the jokes. If you don't get a solid laugh with your practice audiences, drop it, because, as Chavez describes it, there's nothing worse then watching someone trying to be funny who isn't.

  • Credit. You didn't do your research in a vacuum, so name the people who helped bring your work to fruition, and show your references.

  • Simplicity. Keep your PowerPoint slides simple so your audience can read them quickly. Although you should refer to them during your talk as a visual guide to your presentation, do not read them to your audience.

  • Bring backup. Avoid any technical snafus by storing your presentation on your laptop, a flash drive and a disc during your interview trip. Consider making slides for an overhead projector, so you're ready in case the computer fails.

-C. Munsey