Conference Presentation Tips

Your paper

Keep the paper focused: You only have time (usually 15–20 minutes) to present one idea.

Consider your audience: Reading an article silently is very different than listening to a presentation.  A reader can skip ahead or re-read a section of prose that was dense or unclear.  An oral presentation happens in real time. Dense jargon, lengthy quotations, and long, complicated sentences can lose your audience.

Don’t use lengthy quotes or quote too much material: This is confusing and unproductive. Your audience wants your ideas, not what you have gleaned from others. Don’t simply apply someone else’s ideas to a different text. If it is absolutely necessary to include lengthy quotes, provide the audience with a handout of quotes to which you will be referring, or include them in your slide show presentation. Following on from this, don’t read out long quotations during your presentation, especially if they’re included in an accompanying sideshow. Just read the pertinent parts of the quotation, and/or allow the audience a few moments to read the slide/handout with the quotation.

Read the text aloud to yourself as you revise: This will help you eliminate wordy sentences and awkward phrases.

Meet length and time requirements: This is extremely important.  If you have 20 minutes do not go to your panel with a paper exceeding 10–11 (double spaced; 12-point font) pages in length.  Going over your time limit will not make you popular with the other speakers on your panel (or your audience).

Clear pronunciation: Your voice must be clear and distinct. If you know you have difficulty with pronunciation, write out difficult words phonetically, and speak a little more slowly than usual. For a 20-minute paper, consider preparing an 18-minute paper, for a 15-minute paper, prepare a 13-minute paper. This will force you to slow down as you speak. Make notes on your paper where you need to pause to take a breath, and/or to change slides.

Practice your paper!: Practice out loud, practice alone, for your friends, family, and colleagues, for anyone who will listen; and ask your practice audiences for feedback. Practising will help insure that you stay within your time limits, are comfortable communicating orally, and that you are communicating clearly.

Print out your paper in large type: Try 14-point or even 16-point, so that you do not need to squint to see it when you are standing at a podium.

Your slide show

To help communicate your lecture, consider using presentation software such as PowerPoint or Keynote.

Compatibility of technology: Before you decide to use technology of any kind, be sure and check with the conference organisers to know what technology will be available in your presentation room.

Create clear, simple slides: Use simple clear designs and colours on your slide show. The audience will not appreciate designs and harsh colour combinations that are cluttered and difficult to read. Use a simple, easy-to-read font, in a size large enough that it can be read by everyone in the room. Limit the amount of material on each visual: your listeners should be able to read and understand a visual in five seconds or less.

Keep the slides to a minimum: Remember, your slide show and other visual aides are there to accompany your talk, and not the other way around. Having lots of slides, or very long video/audio clips will eat into your presentation time.

Spell check your slide show: Typos are distracting and make your slide show seem unprofessional. Read through each slide and check for any errors.

Practice, practice, practice!: Practice with your visual aids before you give your presentation. If you are using technology—overhead projections, slides, video clips—practice your talk with it. Get to the room where you will be presenting your paper early and test out your technology. There is nothing more stressful for a presenter and annoying for an audience than when technology goes haywire, and a presenter wastes times trying to get the technology working and looking right. Also, have a backup plan, such as a handout containing quotes and images, in case things go wrong.