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Disclaimer All workshops and workshop materials are the sole property of PEGS and cannot be published, copied, or disseminated without prior written approval from PEGS and are for student and faculty use only.
Presenting at Academic Conferences
I. Conferences So you want to speak at an academic conference. Well, there’s a few things you need to get started. You have to … know you’re ready. … find a conference. … submit an acceptable abstract.
Conferences: Yes or No? Are you ready? -Conferences are all about getting feedback. -Conferences are places of fierce competition. -Check in with colleagues, advisors, or PEGS on the level of your work. Is it the right time? -Prioritize. What are you working on right now? Do you have time for an extra project? Obtain funding. -Check with your department. Also, PEGS and other school resources offer grants for research! -The conference may offer fellowships. (Newton & Tailor)
Conferences: Finding One Start Local -Los Angeles is a big place with a lot of organizations. -Check with your advisor to find the right conference for you. Common Websites: -Conference Alerts -The Chronicle of Higher Education -Calls for Papers [CFP] (Humanities) -H-net (Social Sciences) -OUP Academic and Professional Conferences (Science, international ) *The average call for papers is 6 months in advance. ( Newton & Tailor)
Conferences: Abstracts Stick to the topic. -The first question selection committees ask is how well a paper fits into the conference themes. They want papers that fit seamlessly into the overall conversation (and eventual publication) of the conference. -Use keywords from the conference title/call for papers in your abstract to prove your relevance to the topic. Follow submission guidelines. -Word count limits can be very strict. (Newton & Taylor)
II. Content At a conference you have limited time to present your findings/ argument/etc., which means utilizing … dynamic organization. “Especially in a conference situation, where talks are short and yours is one of many, your audience is not going to remember details. In such a situation, less is more” (Edwards 3). … support materials (ahem, PowerPoint). Use PowerPoint, handouts, images (or film), graphs and diagrams to aid in your presentation, but be careful that they do not overshadow or contradict the main point or the speaker (you).
Content Flow: The Paper Expect to Write a Completely New Draft -Chapter/Article length papers are not conference papers. -Write for the ear, not for the eye (Newton). That means short sentences (less than 3 lines) and active voice. Use accessible vocabulary. Examples of non-accessible vocabulary include jargon (or any other term which can be contested), and nominalizations. Never Exceed Your Time Allotment -1 page, double-spaced ( ~ 250 words) takes about 2 minutes to read. 20 minutes = 9 pages (this gives you leeway for pauses, etc.) 20 pages = 40 minutes (we’re talking keynote address here) (Newton & Taylor)
Content Flow: The Paper Make the Most of Your Time -State your two-part thesis (argument + importance of argument) clearly at the beginning and the end of your talk. -Build from the knowledge base of your audience. Often you speak to people in your field, but not your specialty. No need to start at square one; assume some knowledge. Use scholars/studies/etc. that others will recognize. Explain terms. -Prioritize main points which support your thesis/findings. -Know that you will not be able to include everything. (Newton & Taylor) You can use this to your advantage during the Q & A portion of your talk.
(Alley 36) Content Flow: Level of Detail
Visual Aids: Use of Visual aids are a must have. -Something as simple as an outline will help listeners follow your talk and stay interested. -Images and graphs are particularly useful in illustrating a point. -It is less useful to hand out a copy of your paper. Check your information. -Visual materials support the paper – they should never contradict statements you have made. -Allow for time to explain any graphs or diagrams. (Edwards 2-3).. ) )
Visual Aids: Format Be prepared for technical issues. -Many conferences will not let you use your own computer, their programs may not take your file, the computer system may fail, etc.. Be ready to give the talk w/o ppt. -Bring backups of the files you plan to use: USB, CD, paper. Your layout should be consistent. Adjust your format according to the talk you’re giving. -White/light background with dark font: easy to see, and brightens often dark rooms (making your notes easier to see!) -Dark backgrounds are strictly for larger lectures. (Edwards 2-3)
Visual Aids: Format Keep it simple. -Too much information is distracting and hard to read. -Fancy transitions/etc. are often the first thing to fail with technology issues. -Remember this is an academic talk: too much time spent on a slick presentation will make your audience think you spent more time on superficial/surface matters. -“Slides should be extremely concise and visually uncluttered. 7 lines of text per slide is good; 10 lines is a lot; 15 lines is pretty much unreadable” (Edwards 3).
an example: slide format - From “PowerPoint Does Rocket Science--and Better Techniques for Technical Reports” A real slide made by someone from NASA, but it is practically unreadable!
a better example: slide format - From the “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering.” Much better.
an example: using images - From [A Website that sells formats for Scientific PowerPoint Presentations] Based on our discussion so far. What is wrong with this slide? Click here for the answer.
a better example: using images - From - From “Improving Preventive Health Care Success Stories: USPSTF and ePSS at San Francisco General Hospital” Dept. of Health and Human Svcs. No image is better than poorly used images. This slide is a little boring, but the presentation is about content. It has a readable font size, lets you know where you’re going, etc.
III. Preparing to Give the Talk You have the materials. Now it’s time to get ready for the talk by … rehearsing your presentation. … trying to anticipate obstacles. … making yourself ready on the day of the talk.
Prepare: Rehearsal Read Your Paper -Find a colleague/peer to practice with. Ask for feedback on both content and your delivery style. -Read over your paper twice. Never Exceed Your Time Allotment -Read more slowly than you would regularly read. -Have a system: a watch with a timer, marked pages, et cetera. “Say you have 20 minutes to talk. When you're rehearsing, mark your notes at the 5, 10, and 15 minute points, and maybe also the 18-minute point as well. That way you wont’ be caught by surprise if you start to run overtime” (Edwards 5). -Don’t improvise: stories/jokes/digressions/explanations take up time ∴ they should also be rehearsed (Edwards 5).
Prepare: Obstacles You will encounter uncontrollable factors. -When a hiccup occurs due to technology or whatever, the audience will remember most how you dealt with them. -Number your pages! (Ever dropped a paper?) Be honest when you don’t know the answer to a question. -You are dealing with experts, they will know if you come up with something off the top of your head. -Instead of an outright admission of ignorance, you can refer the audience to authors/works which deal with the question. (Newton & Taylor)
Prepare: Know Your Audience Anticipate gaps in your presentation/counter-arguments. -If you do this right, you can steer audience members into asking questions you have come prepared to answer or, even better, about parts of your paper did not have time to read. Audience Archetypes -Critic: (a friend of learning) wants clarification/more detail. Practice explaining your points in different ways. -Cheerleaders: admire/do similar work (take up a lot of time). -Antagonist: ready to argue. Do not engage these folks. Thank them for their point and move on. -Your Plant (make sure you trust them) (Newton & Taylor)
Prepare Yourself: The Day of Get to know the room. -Arrive early. -Familiarize yourself with the equipment, lighting, layout, etc.. Think positive to control nervousness. -“When you do not channel the nervous energy in a positive manner, it often comes out in distracting movements: jingling coins in a pocket, playing with a pointer, dancing a samba with one’s feet” (Alley 196).
IV. Presenting with Style Even if you’re ‘giving a paper,’ presenting at a conference is more than simply reading to an audience. In a conference presentation you want the audience to … listen to you. “Listening is hard work. Especially at conferences, where audiences listen to many talks over many hours, people need the speaker’s help to maintain their focus” (Edwards 2). … remember your presentation. “Examples, analogies, and stories serve as mnemonics when the audience tries to recount the presentation” (Alley 14).
Techniques: Demeanor Be Professional -Expected attire varies depending on the conference you are attending. If you look serious, you’ll be taken seriously. That said, be comfortable. Don’t wear something that makes you feel awkward. If you feel confident, you will seem confident. -If you are presenting on a panel, listen attentively to other speakers. Use a Strong, Clear, and Expressive Voice -Variations in your tone of voice help listeners to follow your presentation and to recognize important points. *short pauses can break up monotony *repeat important points/phrases (Edwards 2-3)
Techniques: Demeanor continued Look at (All of) Your Audience -Looking at someone’s forehead is better than not looking. -Try not to focus only on one part of the room. -If you are using visual aids, do not read from them (thereby showing your back to the audience). Stand Up (if you can) and Move Around -Standing means people can see you. -Movements should not be too expressive. -Whether standing or sitting, have good posture. This is important with microphones: adjust the mic to suit you, do not adjust your posture to reach the mic. (Edwards 2-3)
Techniques: Personality Analogies -“If an atom were enlarged to the size of a bus, the nucleus would be like the dot on this i.” ~ Otto Frisch (Alley 14) Personal Connection/Remarks -Don’t be afraid to show enthusiasm for your subject. -Yield to experts (show humility). Humor -Not everyone can tell a joke. -Jokes can be inappropriate. -Jokes are much harder to make at the beginning of your talk. (Alley 14-21)
V. That’s great, but how? -Go to conferences and watch other speakers (Edwards 2)! Increase your awareness of current topics in your field while also picking up tricks from more experienced speakers. -Remember that practice is part of preparation. -Stick with what works: by using the same format for slides/presentation outlines, you can become comfortable and thereby more confident in your format while also refining it. -Continue to view presentations as an opportunity for improvement (Alley 169).
Alley, Michael. The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid. New York: Springer-Verlag, Edwards, Paul N. “How to Give an Academic Talk: Changing the Culture of Public Speaking in the Humanities.” Michigan: Paul N. Edwards, McConnell, Susan. “Giving an Effective Presentation: Using Powerpoint and Structuring a Scientific Talk” Dept. of Biological Sciences, Pew Foundation Meeting. Stanford U Lecture. Newton, Richard and Taylor, Gail. “Presenting Conference Papers.” Writing Center. Claremont Graduate U. Video Webinar.
Special Thanks UNC Chapel Hill UC Berkeley Cornell University UNC Wilmington Claremont Graduate University Writing Center MLA Purdue OWL Extra Credits Study Guides and Strategies Online And of course…… The Librarians at CSUDH LFC Cain Library
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