Symposium Presenter Best Practices

Remember that judges are from within and outside of academia; you are bringing your work to a broad audience, many of whom may not be familiar with complex topics or topical jargon. 

Before your presentation

  • Rehearse a quick “overview” speech about your research to use when greeting people to your presentation.
  • Think of some engaging questions to offer those who visit your presentation. Get them thinking about how your research may relate to their lives and/or work. “Have you ever thought about...?” “What if you could...?”
  • Arrive early enough to give yourself at least 10 minutes of set-up time before the presentation begins.
  • Have business cards or notes available for making contacts with others (not everyone will have a smart phone).
  • You might consider printing out your abstract with a link to your research paper (if it’s available online) to hand out to potential future collaborators. Be sure to include your contact information on this.

During your presentation

  • Introduce yourself! It sounds like common sense, but is frequently forgotten in the moment. It may be appropriate to include your program of study, year in the program, adviser’s name or lab group, etc.
  • If you’re presenting in a one-on-one setting, like a poster presentation, gauge your audience’s knowledge of the topic by asking questions: “How familiar are you with...?” “Have you heard of...?” This not only allows you to adapt the language you use to help your audience understand your research, but engages them in the presentation from the outset.
  • Use language that is accessible to people from different backgrounds. Avoid using jargon, or include a brief explanation when you use specialized terms or acronyms.
  • Take notes; if you are asked a question that you need to revisit to answer at a later time, or if there’s a great question that you want to incorporate into future presentations, write these down.
  • If you’re in an environment where it is condusive to do so, say “hello” to the presenters next to you!

Take advantage of other “best practices” guides from around the web:

The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin, Poster Presentations

PLOS “Ten Simple Rules for Making Good Oral Presentations”

Creating Posters for Humanities and Social Sciences (University of Houston, Downtown)

Univ. of Pennsylvania, How To Create Effective Posters and Presentations