Preparing for Your Conference Presentation

Preparing for Your Conference Presentation

Coathured by Dr. James Gillespie and Dr. Michael Solomon

Congratulations.  You’ve submitted for and been accepted by a major industry event to present on a topic of your own. This is an incredible opportunity to demonstrate your findings and expertise. Below, we’ve included a few steps to help you prepare for the big day.

Conference Guides

Many conference committees publish a guide for presenters. Be sure to inquire about this and adhere to the guidelines while creating and practicing your presentation. If your conference does not publish a guide, several very good ones – such as the American Psychological Association's presenter guide for its national conference – are full of useful tips. Chris Anderson, a curator for TED talks, has written a terrific piece in the Harvard Business Review on how to deliver a successful presentation.

Understand Your Audience

It is important to know the audience to whom you will be presenting. Most conferences will provide demographics on attendees if requested. If mostly health care executives will be in the audience, the terms you use and the stories you tell will be different than when presenting to health services researchers, for example.

Review Your Survey Beforehand

An often overlooked piece of the puzzle is the speaker evaluation survey that is typically provided in print-outs in the room. Attendee evaluation surveys provide a good indication of how you will be scored, which is often used in future reviews of presentations that you propose.  Review the speaker evaluation survey while you are preparing your presentation, not after setting up in the room where you will be speaking.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Regardless of what, where, or to whom you are presenting, practice is invaluable. It helps you to perfect your timing, hone your delivery, and generally get comfortable with the process of presenting itself. Practice your presentation as much as possible in advance. If the conference has a speakers’ suite, take advantage of it so you can ensure everything is set up correctly.

Invite Your Peers to Participate

Another great way to ensure the presentation stays on topic without getting stale is to “stock” the room with colleagues. There is nothing wrong with “planted” questions, either to stimulate discussions during the question or answer segment. Reach out to your professional network and let them know you will be presenting. The fuller the room, the better.

Do you have a suggestion we missed? We’d love to hear about your experiences presenting your research in the comments below. 

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