Conference Presentation Insight: Tips & Pointers Part 2
Published: February 6, 2024 by Kesheena Doctor
This past fall semester was an extremely busy time for me. Not only was I working part time and taking a full course load, I also presented at two conferences! For those unaware, presenting at a conference takes a lot of preparation and careful planning.
However, these were such great opportunities for my professional development. For the second part of this blog, I’d like to share what I learned from my presentation experience with you.
The Conferences I Presented At
This fall, I attended and presented at both the 2023 International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) and the International Indigenous Librarians’ Forum 2023 (IILF). At ATALM, I co-presented two presentations on behalf of Reading Nation Waterfall and Seeking Immortality, two iSchool projects led by iSchool director, Dr. Anthony Chow. Both presentations were hybrid (in-person and remote presenters) with over 10 presenters for each presentation. This required a lot of pre-planning to ensure we had no unforeseen issues. Our presentation teams created strict presentation schedules, timestamped each presentation slide, created presentation scripts, and troubleshooted any possible technical issues for a hybrid presentation.
For IILF, I co-presented a poster with my mentor from the Kaleidoscope Program. While a poster presentation generally does not require as much work as other presentations, IILF requires all presenters to submit a paper with their presentations. My co-presenter and I wrote our paper first and then created our poster to ensure consistency. Our paper was finalized two months before the conference, which gave us a small window to create our poster. Figuring out printing logistics and traveling with a poster can be a big hurdle in the poster presentation process. Fortunately, our conference hosts offered to print our posters and have them ready at the conference, but it required us to have our poster finalized two weeks before the conference!
Preparing for the Big Presentation Day
The weeks leading up to both conferences were busy, coordinating with presenters and ensuring our presentation formats were error-free. There were also many changes to our presentation plans even up to the day of our presentation. Though many of these adjustments were unforeseen, some could have been incorporated into our original presentation plans.
In my first blog on presenting, I mentioned including participation handouts and addressing accessibility issues into the presentation proposal planning process. In my experience, my co-presenters and I didn’t consider these factors until we were less than a month away from the conference. Though we had time to make the needed changes, it did cause unnecessary stress since there were so many other details to coordinate before presentation day.
Presenting with others required a lot of coordination. Every presentation was filled with constant emails and meetings to ensure we were prepared. We had to keep track of travel plans, accommodation plans and our own individual conference schedules. My co-presenters and I also coordinated our roles for the presentation and agreed to bring extra tech supplies. Conferences also provided a lot of pertinent conference information, including presentation details in the weeks leading up to the presentation, and my co-presenters and I had to be sure we didn’t miss these emails.
Day of Conference Presentation
Conferences are fun and informative, and time flies quickly. If you’re presenting, the conference flies even faster, and time is delineated between pre-presentation and post-presentation. Once you have all of your presentation and conference travel figured out and you are at the conference, I suggest doing the following:
When you arrive at the conference, immediately go to the room you will be presenting in and take a look around to note the general setup of the room. This will help you evaluate what you might be missing or need for your presentation.
- Prep snacks and drinks for the conference the night before.
- Print out your scripts the night before.
- Download your presentation to your laptop.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Get up early, eat breakfast, exercise, meditate, hydrate, or whatever else you need to feel energized.
- Bring business cards and handouts for audience members.
- Bring tech tools like adapters for your laptop and phone and a Wi-Fi hotspot device.
- Do a tech check run at the conference to ensure your video, audio, and video conferencing links work.
- Relax if you can.
- Ask a friend to take photos of the presentation in some way so you can share it on your social media pages. If you are a scholarship recipient, you might need photos for documentation.
Typically, after a presentation, there will be a lot of guests who want to discuss your presentation with you. However, I recommend keeping those conversations to a minimum so you have time to break down your setup for the next panel. Conferences often have a packed schedule and might offer as little as 15 minutes of transition time between panels.
Presentations can be extremely exhausting, and I highly recommend taking time to decompress afterward by leaving the conference and taking a walk or resting in your hotel room. If you received a travel scholarship, you might also need to write a reflection on your experience, and this rest time is a good time to make notes so you don’t forget anything.
The conference presentations I was fortunate to participate in required plenty of planning and dedication, but the experience was so worthwhile. I am grateful to ATALM and IILF for accepting our presentation proposals and my co-presenters, who put in so much effort to ensure we had a successful presentation.
If you have any tips on presenting at a conference, please share in the comments.