The Conference Presentation Lynda GagneUniversity of Victoria October 2004
Overview • Preparing for your presentation • Giving your presentation • Chairing a session • Discussing a paper • Concluding comments
Preparing for your presentation • Knowing your audience • Knowing yourself • Knowing your subject • Selling your research question • Selling your methodology • Choosing the right media • What to include in your presentation • Practicing for your presentation
Knowing your audience • Are the participants experts in your field of study, are they peripherally related to the field, or can you expect some of both groups? • How much do you expect participants to know about your research methodology? • How much do you expect participants about the policy relevance of your research question?
Knowing yourself • How often have you presented and how much confidence do you have in presenting? • What are your weaknesses? • How much preparation do you need?
Knowing your subject • What have other people done in your field of study? • Do you have a good handle on the literature? • What specifically did you do? • What data did you use (if any) and what’s the story behind this data?
Selling your research question • Why is your research question interesting? • What policy relevance (if any) does it have?
Selling your methodology • What’s innovative about your methodology or your research? • Are you using a new method? • Are you using a well-accepted method with new data? • What differentiates what you have done from what all the other work that has been done in the area?
Choosing the right media • Power Point slides have become a standard in many conference presentations • However, in some disciplines, simple transparencies are still the norm
What to include in your presentation • The chair should introduce you • Start with a “front” page that includes • Title of your presentation • Your name and affiliation • [Date, name of conference, paper prepared for…] • [Your next page should include] • Acknowledgement to granters, assistants, etc. • [Any required disclaimers]
What to include in your presentation • Introduction • Tell the audience what issues you are addressing • Place your work in the context of the existing literature • Identify your specific research questions
What to include in your presentation • Methods • Describe your data (if applicable) • In an academic conference, describe your methods in moderate but sufficient detail that listeners would be in a position to criticize your methods (if needed) • In a policy conference, use heuristic devices to convey complex methodology
What to include in your presentation • Findings • Summarize the key aspects of your findings • Use graphs and charts whenever possible or applicable • Graphs and charts should be adequately labeled – you may want to test them on others before your conference
What to include in your presentation • Discussion/conclusion • Discuss the (policy) implications of your findings • Point out the limitations of your research • [Make suggestions for further studies]
Practicing for your presentation • Practice giving your presentation to insure that it is the right length – adjust accordingly • Practice voice control • Learn your materials to remember the order in which they are
Giving your presentation • The presentation • Question period
The presentation • Engage your audience • Make eye contact • Use voice projection • Show confidence – the people who took the time to come to your presentation are interested in your work • Smile and try to build rapport with light humour (if you’re comfortable with that)
The presentation • The chair will usually defer questions to the end of the presentation • If someone interrupts, be friendly and do answer clarification questions • Postpone responding to substantive question until the question period
Question period • Thank the people who ask questions (oh yes, very good point, I’ll check into it; oh yes, I did address this, but …) • Disarm the obnoxious (active listening, as above) • Avoid protracted debates • Take notes
Chairing a Session • Chairing a session is often expected of presenters • Carefully review the terms of your engagement • Contact participants shortly after you receive your assignment to agree on process (or to inform them of the process)
Chairing a Session • Decide on order (presentations, discussants, question periods) • Begin the session by describing the process (unless the process is standard) • Introduce each section/speaker • You are the time and order keeper
Discussing a paper • Often required of conference presenters, or others – usually allotted around five minutes • Junior people should accept these assignments, although they are time-consuming, because of the exposure • You will need to become sufficiently familiar with the related literature and the paper (ideally you should discuss a paper in your area of research)
Discussing a paper • You enjoyed reading the paper, or you found the paper interesting • Brief summary / key points • Paper’s contribution to the existing body of knowledge • Ideas for extensions or revisions (constructive criticism)
Concluding comments • Attending a conference is an ideal way for academics and students to make useful connections and to communicate their research findings • Students will get the opportunity to suitably impress potential employers with their work and presentation skills • Don’t forget to bring your business cards!