Confessions of a PhD Student (7): “To be or not to be… serious”

I love my research topics. I am really passionate about them. When I present them, I try to transmit that passion to the audience.

I recently showed my flatmate some presentations I gave at a conference. I thought they were so pretty and engaging. They had colors and images. They were made in such a way that they could complement my words. There were some slides designed to make people smile… But he did not smile. He did not like them. He said my presentation was not formal and not appropriate for an academic audience.


Slide with image

This is one of the slides I used. I think it looks pretty and interesting. Plus, I took the picture, that is my friend, and it is a couch in Freud’s house in Vienna.


My flatmate argued that instead of using images of people with thinking/speaking bubbles, I should use graphs and diagrams… … It is not that I have anything in particular against graphs and diagrams. I do use them, sometimes… But I like thinking/speaking people!! I like using humor in my academic presentations!!


Slide with image2

This is another slide I used (in a different conference). It was designed to reflect what people were probably thinking at that point of my presentation and to make them smile. That is also my friend.


Are images engaging or distracting? I think it depends on how you use them. If they do not relate to your content (e.g., a gif of a dancing banana), well… I agree that they might be distracting. However, if they help you give your message in a more entertaining way, I really do not see the problem.

What do you think?

– Brenda Padilla

Leave a comment


  1. Images are great. But you can’t have tiny text, as you do in the first slide. Even the text in ‘huh?’ is a bit small.

  2. Ashley

     /  July 7, 2011

    I find there’s nothing worse than a presentation without some small humorous moments. It’s a balance, though. If all of your slides are humorous, then it’s harder to take the presentation seriously.

  3. bdra

     /  July 8, 2011

    Thanks for your comments. I do wonder whether the perception of seriousness has to do with the field… My flatmate is in geography. I’ve been to e-learning related conferences in which the presenters wear shorts and sandals.

    About the text, you might be right. The first slide has a 16-points size text in the bubble. Everything else is 22-points or more.

    – Brenda Padilla


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