Being accepted to present at a national conference is a big accomplishment—exciting, but also, perhaps, a bit scary. Fear not. You can do it! Here are a few tips for success, as well as descriptions of the different presentation formats.
Tips on presenting:
- Try to speak as extemporaneously as you can, to engage the audience and convey your ideas in a way that's appropriate to the face-to-face context.
- Offer something new to the audience. It's important to know your literature review, but your presentation should go beyond what others have done.
- Try to show, as well as tell. Regardless of whether you're giving an individual presentation on a panel or doing a poster presentation, think about how you can convey your ideas in multiple modes; use pictures, give vivid examples, think flexibly!
- If you are using an electronic presentation, be prepared to load your work onto the same computer as other presenters, so that presentations are ready to go and there's no frustrating technology switching time between presentations. The conference facilities in Tacoma will have laptops and overhead projectors in each room where the presenters have requested a projector.
- Though the conference facilities will have Wi-Fi, it is risky to depend on having perfect Wi-Fi for your presentation.
- And, more generally, have a back-up in case the technology doesn't work. Have a printout of your slides and speaker notes, and save your presentation in multiple formats (e.g., in PowerPoint and in pdf), in multiple places (e.g., on a thumb drive and in the cloud). It's like carrying an umbrella to keep it from raining . . . .
- Time yourself when you practice. Your chair will be timing you at the session, but it's no fun for anyone if you get "the hook" because you've gone too long and are encroaching on other people's presentation time!
- Smile—people chose to come to your session. They're interested in what you have to say on your topic.
- It's nice to have a friendly face in the session—pair up with someone and go to the other's talk and s/he'll go to yours, too. (Most comp/rhet/writing center people are very friendly so there should be a lot of friendly faces in the session, but it's reassuring to know there's a special friendly face in the room just for you).
- Keep in mind that the audience has been going to lots of presentations and may be tired, so don't be discouraged if the audience doesn't hang on your every word. But, do try to keep them engaged (see tips above)!
Information on presentation formats:
- Panels are either panels proposed as an entire 75-minute panel or panels composed of individual presentations that are "speaking to" each other and that were created by the program committee from individual presentations. In a panel of 3 people, each presenter should speak for 15-18 minutes, saving a couple of minutes for transitions between speakers. The entire formal speaking part of the session should go no longer than 60 minutes, saving 15 minutes for questions and answers from the audience.
- Roundtables are 75 minutes long and are similar to panels but generally include more than 3 speakers and feature more discussion than panels do--usually around 30 minutes. Plan to pose a few questions to the audience to get the conversation going.
- Workshops are 75 minutes long and should be interactive, with the goal of teaching your audience a new skill or engaging in an extended exercise that helps your audience think more deeply about practice. Workshops can be structured in whatever way makes most sense for your specific focus. Workshops are generally in rooms with multiple round tables or a single long conference-style table.
- Poster Presentations are sessions in which presenters share a poster (flat poster board or printed, not tri-fold) that visually represents research results and/or categorizes literature and/or introduces the audience to a new idea. Posters will be placed in spaces in which audience members can easily move about between posters, spending as much or as little time at each poster as they desire during the session time.
- Mini-workshops are sessions in which multiple presenters quickly introduce a concrete exercise, handout, resource, or programming idea at a round table within a 10-minute timed "shift." Mini-workshops are more interactive than posters and engage audience members with resources that they might want to adopt in their own writing centers. Within a 75-minute session, there will be multiple presenters presenting concurrently, each at a round table. Each presenter will present 6 times, to different audiences who move about the room. Each mini-workshop presenter can decide how to use the 10 minutes, and presenters are encouraged to bring copies or URLs to share with people who want to bring ideas home.
- Idea Labs are sessions in which presenters have a question that they would like to research or develop concrete strategies for addressing on their own campuses and would like to talk with audience members about what approach or what next steps to take. Each presenter will speak for roughly 4 minutes, introducing the basic problem or question, and then the audience will work in tables to discuss the problem or question and to offer the presenter some ideas for moving forward.