Top Ten Tips for giving a conference paper.
These tips were written by a lecturer in history, but they are applicable to any academic conference paper (and perhaps also for some who have to present papers at public sector and commercial conferences too.
1. Writing your paper
2. The night before
3. How to dress
4. The length of the paper
6. Additional material
7. Be prepared
8. Taking questions
9. Getting feedback
10. Networking opportunity
1. Writing your paper
Write your paper ahead of time! Do not try and write it at the conference. You will only panic and do a poor job. However, it is a good idea to read through your paper the night before and add anything interesting that others at the conference have mentioned (this shows you have been listening too).
Have an early night! Although it may be tempting to stay up until 2am with your new conference buddies try to get a decent night’s sleep before you give a paper. Just as when presenting a lecture or attending a job interview, you want to give it your best.
Dress fairly formally. For some reason dressing more formally than usual gives many people more confidence for public speaking and prepares them for the task ahead.
Make sure you know how long you have been asked to speak and stick rigidly to that. Time yourself before you get to the conference. It looks very unprofessional to have to cut bits of your paper out randomly as you speak because you are running out of time.
Speaking naturally. Try to ‘adlib’ some of your paper or read it from bullet pointed notes. This comes across better than if you get your head down and read from a full script.
Show some pictures. People love having something to look at and the visual material will often stick in their heads longer than what you have said. Include your name, institution and email address on this so anyone can easily get in touch with you.
If the technology fails, have a back up! If your Powerpoint/slide presentation doesn’t work, have print outs available of the key images that can be passed around in the audience.
When answering questions from the audience, if you do not know the answer then say so. This looks much better than bluffing your way out of it. For example, turn the question back on the questioner, what are his or her thoughts on the matter?
Do not rush off. Try to stay around for some of the conference even if you are really busy. You will get more feedback from your colleagues if you attend the coffee and lunch breaks and do not just present your paper and then leave immediately.
Promote yourself! Find out who will be chairing your panel and ask him or her to introduce you by mentioning your latest book, article, prize or fellowship.