|Conferences are settings where people make presentations expected to impress the audience. Not everyone knows the basic skills required to present a paper effectively at a conference. A very good paper may fail to impress the audience as a result of bad presentation. In this very educative piece by IJC, very good tips for effective presentation of a paper at any conference are explained.
10 Tips to Present Your Paper Effectively at a Conference
Presenting at a conference constitutes an important part of academic communication for any researcher. Finding the right conference with the right audience is a great way to enhance your career prospects and learn about the new developments in your chosen research area.
Before looking at the professional tips, let us sum up the more obvious ones from common knowledge. An academic presentation is no different from other presentations and the pressure of standing in front of hundreds of people can be nerve-wracking. So, whether it is your first conference or the fiftieth you need to be well prepared, consistent with your topic and relatable to the audience. Our International Journal Corner’s team has scoured the internet for expert guidance to follow before you go up on stage to present your new discovery. Here are 10 tips that will help you present your paper at a conference effectively.
- Understanding Your Audience: Giving an effective presentation means preparing for both: the audience and the topic. An insight into the audience’s likes and behavior is incredibly helpful in order to retain their interests in the topic you are presenting. As the old saying goes, an example is better than a precept: Try to make a matter more understandable by citing an example. It helps the audience imagine themselves in the same situation as is implied by the presenter and serves as a connection between the presenter and the audience. Another great technique to convince people and inspire them into action is story-telling. It works wonders almost everywhere from politics to science. They are able to see themselves more clearly in the situation and are more likely to leave the auditorium feeling motivated.
- Create a Strong First Impression: It is said that, the first impression is the last impression. To create a lasting impact in the mind of your audience, you ought to craft a mind-blowing first move. Very few understand that this is what lays the foundation of your presentation and here is your opportunity to establish yourself and test the water in the auditorium. Every presentation as far as communication is involved is a mutual process. It is not only about adding slides to your presentation. The power of a great presentation lies into the speaker’s ability to unlock multiple reactions from the audience and catering to their queries.
- Cure Your Anxiety: One of the biggest challenges in giving a good presentation is managing your nerves. More or less, everyone feels the same before hitting the stage. Even the most respected speakers and performers experience pre-presentation anxiety, so you are not alone. The skill involved here is how you manage this negative emotion. While a rigorous practice can reduce the pressure that is involved in the first-time performance, nothing can cure it completely. No matter how much you practice, you are bound to feel tensed in front of a live audience and here comes the skill part. The good news is that the skills and techniques to become an effective presenter are acquirable. This means one can master them through rehearsal, experience, skill-building and conscious effort.
- Make Your Presentation Time-bound: Apparently, this may look like a trivial issue. But, timing is an important element to decide the impact of your presentation. So, first know your time and then prepare your materials to fit the time. And then practice with a clock to adhere to the time you have allocated to your presentation. To avoid any hurry or disorder, keep an eye on your watch from time to time. Presenters are usually more concerned about being not able to finish on time than finishing before time. Though, it is not a completely rare scenario. A little preparation for both the probabilities is a wise choice. And if you finish early, you can perhaps utilize the time by arranging a doubt-clearing session.
- Rehearse Your Presentation: Finally, there is one thing which does not have any alternative- Practice. Putting together a fantastic presentation is not enough. You need to have a few rounds of rehearsal so that you get enough chance to rectify yourself. Rehearsing is crucial to succeeding any exam. And the presentation is no exception. During rehearsal, your mistakes and drawbacks are revealed and you get enough time to correct them. It will make you comfortable with every word you are going to say. Rehearse your paper aloud in private, in front of a mirror and in front of a friend. The more you rehearse your paper, the more confident you grow.
- Use Simple Language: Language, verbal, written or graphic, is the carrier of the idea you want to get across. And your main objective of giving a presentation in the first place is to convey an idea which may be a new one. If the language is difficult, then it will be doubly challenging for the audience as they first have to grapple with the language and then struggle with the concept. This can drive away the interest of your audience from your subject. For better understanding and motivation of your audience, you should aim for simplicity and consistency in the script and slides. In the case of classification and logical sequencing, feel free to use a tree, chart, bullet points or whatever does the best job to communicate that idea. But be careful not to overcrowd your slides. You obviously want your audience to listen to you instead of reading from your slides. In that case, the presentation becomes pointless. Besides simplicity, continuity is also a very important aspect of an effective presentation. You cannot stop to think at any point. To ensure a continuous flow, prepare hand notes and do not hesitate to use them as a prompt to take a cue from during your presentation. The slides you use should look consistent in terms of theme, color, font, and style. Apparently less significant, they play a vital role in engaging the audience.
- Use Visual Aids: A picture is worth a thousand words. An image is more poignant than words and is more efficient to communicate emotion and complex idea. Images, PowerPoint, and props are a great way to retain the audience’s interest. They help to complement the ideas or points you’re trying to get across to the audience. But always keep your visuals clean and simple. Otherwise, it might confuse them.
- Get Some Stage Preparation: Expert presenters follow this strategy quite often. When we move into a new environment, our body becomes alert to every minute details present there and it takes time to acclimatize with the new place. Naturally, when you give a presentation in a new setting, your nerves get keyed up to it and this will obviously take your attention away from the topic you are about to present and thus can affect your performance. So, if there is an opportunity, get down to the room ahead of time and familiarize with it, take a position and rehearse your material, check out the equipment you will be using during your presentation. This will save you from the terror of a last-minute discovery.
- Use Your Best Soft Skills to Create Impact: Recently, there has been a lot of emphasis on body language in presentations, seminars, and meetings. Body language is particularly crucial in academic conferences. Your soft skill, tone and gestures influence in large part your audience’s interest and attention in the information you are sharing. Maintain a uniform tone and a correct modulation although your presentation and keep your audience focused. Your position in the room determines how engaged your listeners would feel. It is important for you to be visible and audible from all parts of the room. Consider making eye contact with your audience. It makes them feel you believe in what you say and your new findings sound convincing. It is better to avoid looking at the ceiling or your notes intently. This can give the impression that you’re nervous and prevents you from speaking clearly. Keep an open posture and cover the full stage while giving the presentation. Movement improves blood circulation throughout your body and helps reduce tension.
- Encourage Discussion: Modern definition of communication is a mutual concept. And the circle is complete only when your audience comes back to you with questions. A question-answer session gives a well-rounded ending to a conference presentation. These questions are your best opportunity to elaborate on the concepts you introduced to your audience. But, the whole session can go wrong if you are not ready for it. To excel in this part, you may need some homework in advance so that you can overcome the fear of the unknown. Jot down the questions that may arise from the discussion prior to hitting the stage and keep the answers ready in your mind. The ability to address a query confidently will increase the credibility of your topic. In an adverse situation, you learn an important social skill of managing embarrassment of not knowing an answer. Some experienced presenters even take note of any difficult question they face to ponder on it later and this technique will surely open a new avenue in your research.
We hope these tips will be beneficial when the next time you get your proposal accepted and see the prospect of presenting at a conference. And when you crack your next conference opportunity, take a step forward. Consider publishing your paper in a proceeding with ISBN to create a lasting impact on your audience. If it is your institution that organizes the conference, take initiative towards publishing all the papers presented there in order to add value to the new discoveries.
(This article was first published by International Journal Corner).