Talking to Judges
An important part of your science fair project is your presentation to the judges. You may have a great project, but you need to be able to communicate its significance to the judges. Verbal communication skills are key in all walks of life, including the science fair.
Below you will see two sample presentations. Take a look at them. When you are watching them, think about what the presenter does well and what could be done better.
Note: These movies require QuickTime to run.
Which presentation leaves a better impression on the judges?
The two main criteria you will be judged on for the verbal portion of your presentation are presentation quality and dynamics. The judging score sheets describe them as follows:
- 4 points - clear presentation, concisely summarizes the project, information is relevant and pertinent
- 3 or 2 points - information given is adequate, but presentation is difficult to follow
- 1 or 0 points - information jumbled, irrelevant; presentation unclear
- 4 points - speaks fluently with good eye contact; polite, dynamic, and interested in their project
- 3 or 2 points - student was polite and interested in their project, moderate eye contact, relied heavily on note cards
- 1 or 0 points - no eye contact, read from note cards, did not seem interested
What to say
If a judge comes up to you and asks you to explain your project, what are you going to say? A quality presentation will be clear and concise. It will explain the project in a simple way that highlights the important aspects of the project. As you begin to think of what you are going to say, think about what the objective of your presentation is and what is important to communicate.
Start with a short introduction. You may want to introduce yourself if you have not already. Briefly say what your project is about. This may only be a sentence or two. It could be something as simple as “In my project, I studied how different amounts of sunlight affect plant growth.” You could also include a brief overview of the rest of the presentation during your introduction.
The content of your presentation is the core of what you are going to say. It is the meat and potatoes entree after the introduction salad. This is where you explain your project. Focus on what is important and be to the point. Keep in mind that the judge may not know as much on the subject as you so don't assume the judge knows a lot on the subject.
Finish with a brief conclusion. Summarize what you just said into a sentence or two. You may want to conclude with what you learned from the project or what parts of it you find especially exciting. It's not a bad idea to include suggestions for future work. Once you are finished, ask if the judge has any questions.
When to say it
This is pretty straightforward. After your introduction, explain your project. Explain your project in a logical progression. This means start with the background info on your project. Then follow the process you went through during your project. This will probably be something like purpose, hypothesis, procedure, results, and conclusion. The key is to explain your project clearly and concisely to the judge.
How to say it
Interestingly enough, how you present your project can be more crucial than what you actually say. If you appear disinterested in your project, it will impact your dynamics and significantly detract from your score. The following is a list of tips on how to present well:
- Speak clearly, do not mumble
- Speak loud enough to be heard but do not yell
- Speak slow enough to be understood well
- Speak with passion, change the tone and take pauses to emphasize certain points
- Make good eye contact! You do not have to stare at the judge the whole time but do not look down at your shoes or out the window when talking
- Do not fidget or wring your hands. This is quite distracting.
- Face the judge when speaking
- Stand up straight. Do not hunch over or lean on the table
- Stand to the side of your board so that you do not obstruct the judges view of it
- Things to avoid
- Don't use slang or unexplained jargon
- Don't say filler words “like” or “you know” or “um.” Pause for a moment if you need to collect your thoughts
- Don't wear too much or gaudy jewelry, no chains
- Dress nicely, look sharp
- Enjoy the presentation! Your excitement will shine through
The key to a good presentation is good preparation. One of the best ways to prepare is to practice. Practice in front of a mirror or in front of a friend. Practice when you are in the shower. Practice on your way to school. Practice! Practice wherever you can until you confident in your presentation.