Conference Presentations

Conference presentations can present a range of unique challenges. Below are some tips that can help you prepare to give a conference talk, especially if you’re new to sharing your work in this way. If you’re working on a poster presentation, check out this resource on creating research posters.

Preparing for Oral Delivery

  • Be attentive to how you’re using field-specific terms in your talk. Either break terminology into manageable chunks, unpack it for your listeners, or make it more colloquial for oral delivery.
  • Explicitly signpost or forecast throughout your presentation. In other words, explain to your audience what you’re going to do (“First, I will discuss X before moving to Y”) and explicitly reference what you’re saying at key moments in your presentation (“Now, I will discuss Z”). These strategies can help listeners orient themselves to your work.
  • Think about how much you’ll need to contextualize your topic for attendees. Depending on the types of people who show up—for example, academics, practitioners, interested laypeople—and what disciplines they’re in, you might need to devote more or less time to situating your work in scholarship from your field.

Managing Nerves

Speaking anxiety is common when it comes to conference presentations. Here are some tips for managing those nerves:

  • Record yourself practicing your talk or rehearse it to a friend or colleague in advance.
  • Practice or look over your presentation in a quiet, distraction-free environment half an hour before delivering your talk.
  • Scope out the room you’ll be in ahead of time, both to get a sense of its layout and to help imagine yourself giving a successful talk.
  • Have a script or notes nearby during your presentation so that you have a safety net to fall back on.
  • Remember, even if you lose your place, pause to collect your thoughts, or reorient yourself during your talk, these moments are rarely noticeable to audiences. More often than not, they’ll be welcome moments for them to stop and digest what it is that you’ve already shared.

 Related Links: