5 Best Ways to Present Your Papers at an Academic Conference

Presenting  Paper at a Conference

Presenting Paper at an academic conference is an important part of a researcher’s life, and is an opportunity that most young researchers look forward to. Although attending conferences and presenting your work can be an excellent opportunity for networking, preparing to give an oral paper presentation to a room of unknown academics may seem like a daunting task. So to make your presentation purposeful, you will follow these tips.

Presenting Paper

  1. Read the call for papers and all information sent from organisers

The call for papers will generally tell you how long your presentation should be and whether or not there is anytime allocated for questions. Usually talks are between 10 and 20 minutes, and in most cases, you will have at least 5 minutes for questions. Every academic conference organiser will have stories of the person who submitted an abstract that was totally unsuitable. If you are unsure, you can always make further inquiries. All paper presenters are required to send a working version of their paper to their panels’ discussants and chairs no later than three weeks in advance of the conference. You should briefly understand what exactly the conference organisers want and plan your paper accordingly.

  1. Plan Your Paper

You won’t have time to discuss your full paper. So choose a theme/ research question that you want to focus on, and stick to it. However, you should always dedicate at least a couple of minutes to offering a general overview to your project so that your audience can understand the context to your research.

If you have decided that this international conference is suitable for you, then find out what the conference organiser requires. Do they want a title, an abstract and title, or Abstract, title and full copy of the paper? Following the organiser’s instructions to the letter gives you a better chance of getting your paper accepted.

The longer version of your paper serves some useful purposes, even though it is not read at the conference in that form: 1) It provides the full argumentation and documentation required to elaborate your scholarly contribution; 2) It will be read by the Discussant, who will be able to affirm for the audience that you have more information to support your argument than you were able to present in the allotted time.

  • Stressing What Is ImportantThe most important key to a successful presentation is to decide what your most important argument and conclusions are and to organize your presentation around these.  It is generally best to state clearly at the beginning what you intend to demonstrate and why it is important, and to let the audience know how you will proceed through your argument.  Each point raised in the course of the presentation should be clearly related to this argument.  You should conclude with a restatement of your most important results, this time allowing the audience to understand clearly that you have indeed demonstrated what you set out to argue.
  • The full written version of your paper will typically have other arguments and contributions which you do not have time to present during the panel, and you may wish simply to mention some such key points without elaboration, so that interested audience members can ask you about them or read your full paper to find out more.  Do not attempt to state quick everything that is in the full version of the paper, but instead select the most important argument.
  1. Design your presentation

Visual aids can be a great tool to back up your presentation, but only if used well. Don’t rely on large blocks of text – your audience will spend more time concentrating on what your slides say rather than what you say! Slides should be visual aids – use photos and images, graphs and charts, or display lengthy quotes you don’t have time to read out. Keywords and key references should be included, and it’s usually useful to have a slide outlining the structure of your talk. So Prepare your slides according to your presentation. 

  1. Keeping to Allotted Time

You are required to complete your presentation in the time allotted to you.  The panel Chair is instructed to end your presentation when your time has expired, regardless of whether you have finished saying what you had hoped to say.  Any extra time you attempt to take would be “stolen” from other panel members.  Therefore, it is crucial that you pace your presentation such that you are able to complete it and give a coherent ending within the time allowed.  We strongly recommend that you practice your presentation — if necessary, repeatedly — until you can comfortably complete it in the available time.  You might also prepare for the possibility that some member of your panel does not appear, allowing some additional time (in this case the Chair will inform you of this possibility at the beginning of the session).

  1. Expect Questions 

In most cases, there’ll be at least 1 question following your presentation. Questions are very difficult to prepare for as you can never know exactly who will be in your audience. If you don’t understand the question, ask for it to be rephrased. If you can’t answer the question, don’t lie and try to make something up on the spot, it’s much better to explain that you haven’t yet looked at this, and to note it down as something to keep in mind for the future.