Presentation Preparation Guidelines

(c) PhDComics.com

(c) PhDComics.com
PHD Comics: How your Conference Presentation Goes via @phdcomics

For some of our presenters conferences are old hat. For others, though, it may be their first go. And there are bound to be varying degrees of confidence and experience in between. The SAGSA Conference has traditionally been a safe conference environment for grad students to start to establish their conference sea legs (if that’s not too odd a metaphor).

Having said that, we want our panelists to make high-quality presentations of their work. By high-quality, we mean presentations that adequately express and clarify some aspects of the work, rather than obscure them.

To that end, here are a couple of guidelines (or if that’s too constraining, suggestions) for your presentation.

  • Arrive early: At least 15 minutes before your presentation. If you need to get tech stuff set up, allow at least another ten minutes.
  • Respect the time limit: That’s fifteen minutes maximum for panels of four presenters and twenty minutes max for panels of three.  It’s not a bad thing to run a bit under the time limit, as it leaves more time for discussion. Your panel moderator will watch the time and will give you the proverbial two-minute warning. Out of courtesy to your fellow panelists, and in the interest of making a  well-paced and complete presentation, please respect the time limits.
  • Practice your presentation before the conference:  Alone is fine, but preferably with a colleague. Either way you can be sure you are working within the time limit, but if you practice with a colleague you may also benefit from some advance feed-back.
  • Send your paper to your panel moderator: This will allow the moderator to pre-read and prepare questions and / or comments on your paper, which should in turn help facilitate discussion during the question period. You will be contacted shortly by your moderator via email.
  • Try not to read the whole time: Keep in mind that while you are familiar with your project, most of the other panelists and audience will not be. It’s generally easier to grasp a few, well illustrated ideas that are presented conversationally than to survive having a several-thousand-word academic prose bomb dropped on you. From point-blank range.
  • But if you are going to read your paper, you should have a maximum of 2,000 words for a fifteen-minute and 2,500 words for a twenty-minute presentation. At risk of repetition, these are max word counts calculated using an average reading speed of 125 words per minute. Erring on the shorter side is always better.
  • Go multi-modal: There will be computers, projectors, screens and sound systems in the presentation rooms. Prepare a power point (not a Death-By-Power-Point, though, please) to aid in the organization of your presentation or visually demonstrate some aspects of your work. Bring sound recordings, or other artefacts of your research. Remember, engagement is key. If no one leaves the room having a clue about what you meant to say, you’ve done no one any favours. least of all yourself. Check out presentation tech details here.
  • The main idea is to take part in a conversation, so do your best to make an engaging and comprehensible contribution!
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