Tips needed! Presenting research at a conference, First Time

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Tabitha
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Joined: Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:12 pm

Tips needed! Presenting research at a conference, First Time

Post by Tabitha » Wed Oct 01, 2014 1:18 pm

Hi all,

I've been invited to present my Undergraduate research project at a conference as part of a symposium with other researchers, exciting but nerv-wracking opportunity! Thankfully I will be presenting alongside another researcher as a sort of joint presentation. Going to fly there the day before and presenting first thing in the morning.

I'm usually ok presenting and enjoyed presenting to the lecture hall in third year. I think its the questions that are worrying me!

Any tips anyone can offer would be much appreciated??

Thanks :)

Dice
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Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2012 12:00 am

Re: Tips needed! Presenting research at a conference, First

Post by Dice » Mon Oct 06, 2014 6:42 pm

Hi Tabitha,

Congratulations on being invited to present your research at a conference! I don't consider myself to be in a great position to offer you advice/tips on this, but I have presented research at 2 conferences, with the first being my undergrad research, and attended a few more- so I will give it a go!

I too was terrified of the questions, but both times the questions were curious/ inquisitive rather than trying to catch me out/ point out the flaws in my research, which is what I'd feared! And it was suggested to me that if someone asked a really tough question that I didn't know how to answer I could say something along the lines of "that's a really interesting question, and one that I need to have a think about. If I can take your contact details at the end I will get in touch with you when I've had a chance to think about it properly."

I think that they main thing I learnt from watching the other presenters was the importance of making the presentation engaging and accessible, not too dry, and interesting to your average person who would not otherwise have an interest in the topic. When I chose between parallel sessions to attend I was surprised how talks I was really excited about didn't keep my attention due to the presenting style/content, when others that were on topics I wouldn't have thought myself interested in really stuck with me if the presenter put them across in an engaging way. I thought that for research conferences perhaps the talks needed to be very formal and academic, using scientific and methodology-heavy language, but this was not what I was advised to do. People will hear (depending on the conference) 10s of talks over the course of the conference, and when they are dry they can just blur into one!

Also, the other thing to think about is how what you say and what's on your slides go together e.g. if you put up a text-heavy slide people will just start reading it and won't really be listening to what you say. Really think about how the slides can be a tool for helping people to understand and remember what you're saying. I'm sure you know all this already from the presenting you've already done! Also it was suggested to me that I aim for approximately 1 slide per minute, so I'm not over-reliant on slides and people get the chance to actually listen to what I'm saying, and to look at me (which facilitates engagement versus staring constantly at the screen).

Good luck, hope you enjoy it!

Dice

Randomswirls
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Re: Tips needed! Presenting research at a conference, First

Post by Randomswirls » Tue Oct 07, 2014 2:55 pm

I've never presented research but regularly train people .

The biggest thing with questions that you don't know the answer to is dont guess apologise for not knowing as Dice said. If you are fairly sure of an answer but not 100% say that as well!

Just remember death by PowerPoint so make sure you don't just read what is said on the slide instead use the slide as an aid and talk freely around it. I attended a presentation yesterday and I could barely read the slides as so much info was packed onto them so make sure the font is big enough.

Charlie
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Re: Tips needed! Presenting research at a conference, First

Post by Charlie » Tue Oct 07, 2014 6:22 pm

I have presented at a few conferences, and was really worried about being asked questions I didn't know the answer to. I found some advice from my supervisor really helpful. When people ask questions, they are usually doing so because they are interested and are likely to have their own ideas about the answer to their own question. So if you really don't know the answer, throw the question right back at them- "that's a really interesting question, I'll have to give it some thought, I'd be really interested in what ideas you might have about that". I found this really helpful advice- I now see people asking questions as a way of directing the discussion, rather than it being because they expect you to have all the answers!

Another thing to bear in mind is that often researchers are presenting a work in progress, so I would see it as an opportunity to share your work, get feedback etc (especially if you will be writing it up for publication or following it up with further research). When I presented some of my work I was unsure of the direction I wanted to go in with my work. In my presentation I used the concluding slide to talk about some of the issues I was having and the decisions I was working through and welcomed people's thoughts. I have found this can be a good way of framing the discussion around something that will be helpful to you.

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Will
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Re: Tips needed! Presenting research at a conference, First

Post by Will » Tue Oct 07, 2014 6:34 pm

Ponderings and wonderings in 140 characters - @willcurvis

Dice
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Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2012 12:00 am

Re: Tips needed! Presenting research at a conference, First

Post by Dice » Tue Oct 07, 2014 10:41 pm

Very useful tips thanks Charlie, I will be using them next time!

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sarahg
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Re: Tips needed! Presenting research at a conference, First

Post by sarahg » Wed Oct 08, 2014 8:59 am

Great blog-post Will! I've saved that for when I next present :)

Tabitha
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Re: Tips needed! Presenting research at a conference, First

Post by Tabitha » Thu Oct 23, 2014 11:44 am

Thank you everyone for pitching in! There's some really helpful stuff here, and I really appreciate the tips on answering questions. Really helpful! :)

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