Conference Presentation Insight: Tips & Pointers Part 1

iStudent Blog
Presenting at a whiteboard

Published: January 25, 2024 by Kesheena Doctor

While an iSchool student, I’ve been able to attend conferences, get networking opportunities, and gain professional development. However, I have had little experience with presenting at conferences until this year, most notably at the 2023 International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums and the International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum 2023.

After having these wonderful experiences, I would like to share my insight to help other iSchool students with the presentation process.

Planning Ahead

Most conferences have a short window for accepting presentation proposals, with deadlines typically 6 to 9 months before the conference. As such, long-term planning is key when presenting at a conference. Conferences also generally announce their prospective dates at least two years in advance so it can be feasible to plan ahead. In a previous blog post, I provided some tips on selecting the right conference to attend. Though location and date are often factors in the decision-making process, a conference’s size may also be a consideration, especially if you are nervous about presenting to a large audience. In these cases, a regional or state conference may be a good option since they are more local, you might know attendees, and it will be on a smaller scale.

After making note of conference dates and presentation submission deadlines, I suggest making some elementary travel arrangement plans to help alleviate any budgeting concerns. iSchool students and new MLIS professionals have many opportunities to help offset the costs of attending conferences. iSchool students have various scholarship opportunities to attend conferences, including the iSchool Travel Grant for Current Students. Many conferences also offer a travel scholarship for students or professionals just starting out. Some employers may also provide a professional development stipend. 

Drafting a Proposal

There are many factors to consider when creating a presentation proposal for a conference, including:

  • Topic: Presentations are generally focused on the work you are doing or research you have performed. To help determine your presentation topic, make a list of any papers written, internships taken, and job experience to brainstorm your potential presentation topic.
  • Co-presenters: If you’ve worked collaboratively on any research, consider asking these partners to present with you.
  • Format: Conferences have a variety of presentation formats, including poster presentations, interactive presentations, and panel discussions.
  • Presentation Length: This is often determined by the conference, but most presentations are 60 minutes in length.
  • Conference Rubric: Conferences like ALA 2024 Annual Conference & Exhibition
  • will typically provide a rubric for presenters to use when drafting a proposal.
  • Conference theme: Conferences also often have themes or a focus, and if your work aligns with those, your presentation proposal might have a better chance of being accepted.
  • Participant handouts: Though not required, providing a QR code for the presentation deck, flyers, or business cards is always a good idea. There are always audience members who want to connect with you and your work!
  • Accessibility: Checking for accessibility for you and your audience is an important but often neglected step in the presentation process.

Most importantly, remember that your work is valuable! As iSchool students, we might have limited experience in librarianship, but it is important to reassure ourselves that our work is important and peers are interested in our research and projects.

In an earlier blog, I detailed my time as an intern for Reading Nation Waterfall (RNW), and learned many skills, including best practices for drafting a proposal. To ensure a strong proposal:

  • Review all the conference proposal material
  • Make detailed notes
  • Organize this information in a document so it is easily accessible
  • Have a peer or supervisor review your proposal draft
  • Review a final time before submitting your proposal

I worked with RNW team members on a proposal for ALA’s 2024 LibLearnX, and we created a spreadsheet with the presentation rubric and instructions organized in a table so our team could ensure each aspect of our proposal met the conference’s requirements and potentially receive the largest possible points. Conferences are often themed and will advise potential presenters to incorporate conference themes into a proposal or explicitly ask why the proposal fits the theme. Using some of the language in the conference organization’s mission and values is also good to incorporate into a proposal.

Post-Proposal Acceptance Process

Once your proposal is accepted (congratulations!), now is the time to start planning the details for your presentation. As a presentation audience member, I found that presentations with some audience involvement tend to be more engaging and fun. Incorporating a simple Q&A or polling questions into your presentation can be a fun addition.I have also learned that audio and video elements can be extremely problematic with presentations, so limiting how many of these elements are in a presentation is advisable.

If you have any conference presentation proposal tips you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.


Post new comment