Presenting about iNaturalist... without visuals

Hi everyone,

I am hoping to get some advice on how to talk about iNaturalist (for one hour) without any visuals to assist. I have done around 10 presentations where I felt like an hour or even an hour and a half was hardly any time at all to talk about the many ways to look through the data on iNat and also how to post observations and add identifications, also briefly talking about some of the features like observation fields and the annotations and also projects. If you’ve never presented about iNat but you’re passionate about it, I’m sure you can see how an hour would seem like no time at all. Doing so without being able to click around on the website or a powerpoint, though, seems like it will be a bit difficult. I think my audience will be 10-30 people and my understanding is I will have a microphone and a podium and they will be sitting in arranged chairs in front of me.

Here is a link to a powerpoint presentation that I made and sometimes modify for presentations about inaturalist:
I have also broken them into others that are visible in this folder:

If you find any of these documents useful, feel free to share them with anyone who wants to learn about iNat :-)

So yeah, does anyone have any ideas on how to present some good general info without any visual aides?



Bring a plant part or a turtle shell or things like that. You could talk about what information iNat could provide about this mysterious object, or how to best photograph it for ID.


Wow, this is tough! If the participants will have devices, I think a good option is to give a short intro talk (10 min or less) and then just to get them working through using iNat in small groups. You might be able to narrate using the core app functions to them. Those who might not have a device can buddy up, and someone in a group of 4-5 will probably be fairly proficient and able to help others. You can circulate between groups trouble-shooting and asking questions. I’ve done this with teacher trainings (albeit after a short slideshow) and it has worked well.


Do you mean no electronics? Would handouts be possible?

FWIW, the first time I learned about iNaturalist at a Bioblitz, @merav used no visual aids other than holding up her phone and talking about the iNat basic functions.


Can you ask them to load iNat on their phones before they come? Having a human to prompt you for the first few laps would be much easier, than trawling thru a confusing mass of info to find How do I … Oh I never knew I could …


I have done this in the field, where participants had already (usually) downloaded the phone app and we would launch into using it; but completely without visuals is tough! I’m skeptical about how much people could take away from this format.

Is it a targeted audience? If so, I like to focus on specific features that will “help you do what you already like to do, only better.” Like talk them through the process of making a life list in a field guide, and then describe how iNat would make this easier. Or if you need to mark invasive plants and return to them for treatment, here’s what you might normally do, and here’s how you can do it better with iNat. Or you want to preview wildlife on a trip to the Grand Tetons, here’s how you might do it now, and then here’s how iNat can grab this information and make you an illustrated field guide. The point is they have to be able to imagine a situation they want to be in, which gets them engaged, and then you give them the iNat plug. Good luck! (If you can set up some slides on an iPad and walk around with it, that might help).


By the way, thanks for sharing your materials. Just clicking through the main ppt I saw some clever stuff. I like your point that if you contribute an observation “iNaturalist does the rest” of storing, organizing, and making it available to others. And I love your slide in a park showing that most plants are cultivated (and therefore relatively uninteresting) but that the open lawn with its “weeds” is prime iNaturalist territory. Your audiences are lucky!


Is the lack of ability to use something like powerpoint merely due to lack of power? Or is there some other reason?

I would consider whether you maybe have 6 good ten-minute stories of your own, or 12 good 5-minute stories of your own that you can tell the audience about iNat. Or some stories from your own experience and some from other people.


Most of those lawn weeds were my old friends from the Islands! Biologically, South Florida is more Caribbean than North American.


Yes, the materials in those folders are a treasure trove! So many useful guides that third parties have created that are just hidden away…

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Thank you for the suggestions, everyone! So many great ideas that I am feeling a lot more comfortable with this talk now… Including a couple stories was something I hadn’t considered at all that I think will be very helpful to include.

I also appreciate the feedback about my materials :-)

Happy to hear any other suggestions although I am really happy with everyone has said so far, too!


That’s an interesting challenge. One hour at a podium talking to a sit-down audience with no visual aids (presumably indoors) is quite a bit different from the iNat tutorials I’ve done.

I would start by asking who the target audience is (general public, students/teachers, bioblitz participants, conference attendees…), what they expect from this presentation (entertainment, education, how-to instruction,…), and how much background knowledge they have. Do they already know what iNaturalist is and how it works, or is that the subject of the talk?

Another question would be what the expected format for this is. Your description indicates that the expectation would be you talking to an audience of listeners. If this is an educational setting, can you make it an active learning exercise? Do you know who is going to show up and can you communicate with the audience ahead of time? Or is this a “free to the public” type event where anyone can just walk in unprepared?

If I was asked to do an hour-long talk like this to a public walk-in audience where I have no idea whether they have even heard about iNat before, I would keep it more general and not even try to get into how-to details. I would maybe mention that there are video tutorials how to do stuff on the website and trust that those interested would seek those out to explore. My main focus would be on convincing them that iNaturalist is a great way to spend time and they should do it, too! The way to do this without visuals I think is by telling stories that the audience can relate to and take them sort of on a journey of how I discovered iNaturalist, how I’ve been using it, and how that has been of benefit both for me and others.

I would structure the talk following the general advice of 1) Tell them what you’re going to tell them (~3-5 minute intro), 2) tell them (body of the talk), 3) tell them what you just told them (~3-5 minute summary/conclusion), followed by leaving ~5-10 minutes for questions. That leaves ~45 minutes for the body of the talk. I would chunk that into three ~15 minute sections covering three key points/stories. (There’s a reason the three-act structure is a popular story arc.)

The reason to target ~15 minutes per chunk is the limits to human attention span. (There is a reason TED talks are limited to 18 minutes maximum.) After each chunk, I would try to have some sort of break, e.g. stop to ask for questions before moving to the next story, or take a moment of silence to pour a glass of water and take a sip. This signals to the audience that you’re moving on to another point and allows those who let their minds drift off to reengage with the next part of the presentation. (Even better if you can make your “2nd act” some sort of interactive exercise with audience participation.)

On the day of the talk, be prepared that without visual aids YOU will be the visual for the audience and dress accordingly. I like to wear my “milkweed village” T-shirt for talks about native plants, for example, so I can illustrate the points I’m trying to make by pointing out the plant-insect interactions show on my T-shirt. Having props to pass around would be great, e.g. bring your favorite field guides for identifying. Maybe make yourself notecards with keywords to jog your memory as a fail-safe just in case. Since you have a podium, you have a place to put them, as well as a watch so you can discreetly keep an eye on the time. (Nothing distracts an audience more than the presenter constantly checking their watch.) I don’t think you will need the microphone for this size audience but that might depend on the room.

Good luck!


If possible have everyone download the app beforehand.
Give your presentation.
Then take the last half an hour to actually use the app by either taking everyone outside (if you can) or bringing things to identify inside (dead, alive, bones, shells…). People are more likely to use the app again if they go through their first hurdles with you.

If they cannot use the app you have an hour to talk about the joys of natural history and citizen science. :)


I don’t think anyone else has said this yet, but what about playing a couple of audio observations through the microphone? Unless you’re speaking to people who are used to identifying animals by sound, it might not occur to them that this is yet another use for iNat. Maybe tied to how a lot of movies use red-tailed hawk “voiceovers” for bald eagles?


Perhaps one of your (you would need a local one) iNat stories … there is a daisy in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.
I pull in botaneek in South Africa … then @kai_schablewski in Germany - and iNat goes from it’s green it’s planty (starting at a birdy loadshedding detour) to a happy species obs with 23 on iNat. The web of life is international and crosses invisible boundaries, and so too do we happy iNatters.

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That’s what I was thinking of too. You might even be able to do an ‘iNaturalist: Observing with Your Eyes Closed’ if you are presenting in a room with lights.

I was thinking about sound observations recently when somebody started a little iNat photo of the year contest here. Has anyone ever done something similar for sound observations?

I’ve seen @sambiology give a pretty excellent presentation without visuals (aside from some grass he pulled as an example). However, for context it was before a walk where people were going to use the app in the field with his instruction.


I had years of special presentations to public school class-sized audiences before electronics. Obviously it is TONS easier to lead people through using their devices. But when other things might fail, teachers always have Plan B-Z ready. I could suggest you enlarge a few screenshots that will orient them to what to look for, and either hold it up (print on cardstock), use an easel (most venues have at least that much), tape it to the podium you’re speaking from, or even pass it around–it’s a pretty small group. You can write steps out on a large pad of paper on an easel, or a white board if that’s available. Print out steps and make copies and pass them out at the beginning of the session. That may end up being the most useful thing the folks take away anyway. Similarly, two or three fabulous photos from iNat observations printed at least 8x10 could be shown, to get them excited either about the beauty, diversity, or something heretofore undiscovered.


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