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.

All Presenters

  • Have business cards and/or notes available for making contact with others and have a QR code on these that links interested judges and visitors to your professional website or your program’s website about your research or project.
  • Introduce yourself! It sounds like common sense, but is frequently forgotten in the moment.
  • You can gauge your audience’s knowledge of your topic during your presentation 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.
  • During your question and answer period with judges, or during interaction with other visitors to your poster or alternative media presentation, 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 conducive to do so, say “hello” to the presenters next to you!

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

PLOS “Ten Simple Rules for Making Good Oral Presentations”

Poster Presentations

  • Watch Mike Morrison’s video about his radical redesign of the science research poster. While you may not want to go as far as he does with your poster, his points about the ineffectiveness of a wall of words and even eye-catching graphics that nevertheless don’t convey meaningful information are well worth heeding.
  • Put a QR code on your poster that links interested judges and other visitors to your professional website or to your program’s website about your research or project.
  • Consider using this service to print your poster on cloth. If you print on paper, do not laminate.
  • The exact dimensions of the poster stands are 44.5” wide by 44.75” tall. Your poster may exceed these dimensions up to 4’ wide by 3’ tall. If you opt for a cloth poster and it is wider than 44.5” (3’8-1/2”), then you will need to affix the top of the cloth to a non-bending support of some kind, such as a thin dowel or wire that can hold the hanging cloth straight all the way across its top and still allow it to be affixed to the poster stand with pushpins.
  • Prepare a talk no longer than five minutes about your research or project that your poster supports. Judges will spend ten minutes with you. After telling them about your research, with your poster complementing visually, you want to allow judges (and others who visit you and your poster) enough time for questions.
  • Think of some engaging questions to offer those who visit your poster. Get them thinking about how your research may relate to their lives and/or work. “Have you ever thought about...?” “What if you could...?”

Talk Presentations

  • If you plan to give a slide presentation (Microsoft Office PowerPoint, Google Slides, etc.) to complement your talk, watch Don McMillan’s November 9, 2009, Life After Death by Powerpoint YouTube video. Take a workshop on effective slide presentation design in the fall to avoid perpetrating Death by PowerPoint. One will be offered standalone in the Graduate Student Commons and again as part of the Graduate Student Professional Communication Certificate Program.
  • You have ten minutes to give your presentation, and this should include time for judges to ask questions. We recommend your talk not exceed five minutes. If you plan to give a slide presentation, a good rule of thumb is to spend about a minute per slide.
  • If introducing yourself is part of your talk presentation and you opt to give an accompanying slide show, do not add this information (your name, program, and whatever else you make part of your talk) to your slides. Alternatively, if you put this information on a slide, do not include it as part of your talk.

Alternative Media Presentations

  • Prepare a talk no longer than five minutes about your research or project that your alternative media presentation demonstrates. Judges will spend ten minutes with you, including the time it takes to experience your alternative media presentation. You want to allow judges (and others who visit you and your presentation) enough time for questions.
  • Think of some engaging questions to offer those who visit and experience your presentation. Get them thinking about how your research or project may relate to their lives and/or work. “Have you ever thought about...?” “What if you could...?”