Presenting at an academic conference is an important part of a researcher’s life, and is an opportunity that most young researchers look forward to. It is indeed an exciting experience. However, many feel that tiny bit of nervousness at times. After all, you have to present a research work in front of scientists and at times the judgmental audience. For young researchers who are presenting for the first time, the whole process can get even more overwhelming. Below we shall cover some tips and advice on how to have an effective and smooth presentation.
- Write your paper with the audience in mind: Always remember that a conference paper should be different from a journal article. Your paper is meant to be heard not read, that is a key element to take into account when preparing your conference paper. Listeners tend to have lower attention spans. So keeping the content interesting, simple and straightforward is very crucial. Structure the paper well, with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. Use language that is simple and clear. Quickly define the technical terms that you are going to use and a recap is always nice.
- Follow to time limits: Generally, paper presentation sessions at conferences are 20-30 minutes long. Sometimes, there are last-minute changes in the session timings, so be ready with a short skeleton outline, just in case the speaker before you took longer than expected. Conversely, keep some extra material handy in case you get more time. Real-world examples can always make the audience more interested, so keep that in mind.
- Start confidently: How you begin your presentation matters a great deal. You will have to gain the audience’s confidence and attention from the get-go (the rule is within the first 10-20 seconds). An introduction to yourself using fun facts can be a good start and also gives you credibility.
- Tell your Story: Begin with the problem you set out to solve. What did you discover by chance? What gap did you think your work could fill? For the middle, you could describe what you did, briefly and logically, and ideally building to your most recent results. And the end could focus on where you are today and where you hope to go. Giving the context is very important and you should always highlight some points and state the unique dimensions of your research as well.
- Maintain eye contact with the audience: Be mindful of your posture: stand straight and hold your head up. This will help you make eye contact with the audience and will also make your voice more audible. Be energetic, stand in one spot too long neither move too much. Also, remember that there could be people in the audience whose native language is not English to be clear. Take advantage of pauses to look up at your audience, give your audience time to react to what you say, or to let what you said sink in, or to just let yourself breathe and be more composed. Ted talks are a good example of presentation skills.
- Use transitions: When moving from one idea to another use transitions such “furthermore,” “in addition,” “consequently,” “meanwhile,” “finally,” etc. This makes your presentations flow better. When using the same idea twice, you can begin with “A similar idea is” or “Another example is,” etc. When giving a point-by-point explanation, it is best to mention the total number of points at the outset; for example: “There are reasons for this. The first reason is….; the second reason is; etc.” Additionally, sometimes a simple pause or a direct statement such as “Let’s move to the next part of the presentation” or “To move on to another idea” is also an effective way to introduce a new section, idea, or perspective.
- Encourage questions and discussions: If there are no questions, you can give a cue by pointing out a weakness of the paper. However, don’t be too bothered if there aren’t any questions even after you’ve asked a few times. Discussions, however, are one of the best ways to spark up ideas and fruitful interactions.
- Ensure that the closing is natural: Do not leave immediately. Tell the audience how you can be reached, you can close with a quote. Encourage further communication and development in the field of your research. Ask if anybody has any final questions. Just be yourself.