What is the difference between a good talk on a conference and an enthusiastic lecture in the field of organic synthesis? Well speaking of concepts instead of reaction A or B could be a good start.
As I was honoured to talk about my research at the 3rd European Conference on Natural Products in Frankfurt I was motivated to show my progress in the total synthesis of archazolids. Beginning with some small introduction I showed the auditorium the reactions I made to establish a route to the natural product. Beginning with fragment 1, coupling with fragment 2 and so on. In the end everybody saw the total synthesis, but could anybody remember it two hours later?
On the other side I had the pleasure to listen to some really good talks about building up natural products and derivatives. I have to say that not only the methods to build up complex frameworks, also the way of presentation of the results impressed me.
I realized that a cascade of twenty reactions may not be as impressive as the design and discussion of new concepts in organic chemistry. As we all see different reactions of all types nobody is impressed by a TBS deprotection or by a simple oxidation. It is not worth to spend your short presentation time on things like that. When I started my research my passion wasn't to become an expert of deprotecting alcohols. So why don't I talk about my passion, about natural products and my very own concept to synthesize them?
What is my concept?
Elias J. Corey changed organic chemistry with his perspective and established the retrosynthetic approach. The milestone 'The Logic of Chemical Science' impacted whole generations of chemists. But this book was published almost thirty years ago. What are the concepts for the future? Flow chemistry? Biological engineering? And what is your concept doing research?
Well the question is: Do I even have a concept? I think everybody has one, but as young researchers are often unsure about their abilities of doing research, their own concept seems often to be less valuable compared to other approaches. But only talking about your own ideas and perspective of organic chemistry will improve your skills and will force you to design your very own concept of chemistry.
And this should be the main part of your talk. Explaining how your work will change the perspective of total synthesis. What is your passion in organic synthesis? What is your overall goal? How do you want to reach that goal? Showing your very own concept seems dangerous. What will the experts in your field say? But in the end they will remember you for giving input into the community instead of talking about reaction A or yield B.
The take home message
In the end when you draft your presentation you should always ask yourself would you be interested in this topic after seeing the talk? When the people listen to your talk and think "Let's go back to the lab, I will try this myself" then your talk will have an impact. This will also encourage other young researchers to keep going in their research and will also motivate you to get new results to prove your approach. The take home message should always be: "Let's make better science".