Top 7 Presentation Tips for Your First International Conference

By Emma Spence

It can be incredibly daunting to present at your first international conference, but it needn’t be. There are innumerable resources readily available to help you construct the perfect presentation- from what to put on your PowerPoint slides to how to prepare for questions. This post addresses a few practical considerations for conference newbies.

1) Know your environment

Visit the room that you are due to present in as soon as you can when you arrive at the conference. This way you will be familiar with the room layout and can better visualize your presentation during your final practice run. Also, knowing how the room is laid out, where you’ll stand, and whether or not for example there is a lectern or whether you would have to hold notes etc will ease your anxiety on the day of your presentation.

2) Learn from others

If possible go and see other presentations before your own so that you know what to expect. How did others present? Did they sit and read, stand and point, or pace up and down? What worked? What was off-putting? Should you change your technique? How do your PowerPoint slides compare in terms of clarity and function as a visual aid? Seeing first-hand how others present will help you improve your own presentation style.

3) Know what to expect

Arrive to your session early and with plenty of time to load your PowerPoint on to the PC. Double check the running order with the session conveners. Will the Chair use prompt sheets to ensure timely presentations? Will questions follow each presentation or will they come at the end of the session? Knowing what to expect will help ease tension in the build-up to delivering your presentation.

4) Do what feels comfortable

We all want to be able to deliver impeccable note-free enthusiastic and inspiring Ted-like lectures of our research. In reality, especially in the earlier stages of our academic careers, we’re a little shakier. So when deciding whether to present with or without notes- do what feels comfortable- whether that is reading from your notes, or going freestyle. As long as you are well prepared and can deliver your material confidently and with some enthusiasm, the audience will forgive any over-reliance on notes.

5) Enjoy it!

The audience is there because they want to hear about your work, so reward them with an enthusiastic, engaging, and enjoyable presentation. The more you enjoy it, the better the reception from the audience will be.

6) Don’t rush off

As tempting as it may be to dart to the nearest pub as soon as you’ve been clapped back to your seat, don’t rush off right away. Take your time leaving and speak with people in the audience. Chances are they’ll have some helpful suggestions and/or some nice things to say about your presentation that were not covered in the Q&A- so go seek them out.

7) Rookie mistake

And finally, when you’re done DON’T FORGET TO COLLECT YOUR USB STICK!!

Got any more tips? What do you wish you knew before you presented at your first international conference? Share your experiences…


Extended Call for Abstracts: Postgraduate Snapshots RGS-IG AC2015, ‘Provocations and Possibilities ‘in’ and ‘of’ the Anthropocene’

We have space for 1 or 2 more papers – deadline extended until Friday April 3rd

Provocations and Possibilities ‘in’ and ‘of’ the Anthropocene: Postgraduate Snapshots

Session convenors: Katie Ledingham, Suzanne Hocknell, & Emma Spence.
Sponsored by the Postgraduate Forum & the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group.

RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, University of Exeter 1-4 September 2015

The aim of this session is to explore the different ways in which postgraduate researchers in Social and Cultural Geography are both engaging with and attending to the manifold provocations posed by the concept of the Anthropocene. We are encouraging postgraduates to present a brief ‘snapshot’ of their work (whether a photograph, a quotation, a field diary entry, an image of an object, or mini-video clip) as a focus for 5-10 minute contributions that explore the ways in which their theoretical and/or methodological interventions are acting to work with and against the rise of the Anthropocene. It is envisaged that the snapshot will be the main artefact around which each contribution is orientated. We encourage participants to fully utilise their snapshots in ways which further deepen and enrich the developing trajectories, tensions, and textures associated with the mobilisation of this concept.

The extended deadline for submissions is Friday 3rd April 2015.

Please include:
•A title for your ‘Snapshot’
•An abstract (max 150 words)
•A short description of how your presentation will use your snapshot (max 100 words)
•Your name, affiliation and contact details (email address)
•Year of research (Masters, MPhil/PhD – 1, 2, 3, 3+)

For more information or to submit prospective contributions please email:
Katie <>, Suzanne <> and Emma <>

20 Tips for Top Academic Presentations

By SimonIanCook

I’m giving my first ever seminar in a little over a week. I’ve given many presentations before but not of this length, something which has caused me to become much more attentive to how, rather that what, I present: 45 minutes is a long time to hold an audience’s attention for. So I’ve been scouring books, the internet and other trusted sources for some advice about how to deliver a great presentation.

Below are the twenty tips that seemed most useful to me and include advice on approaching, preparing and delivering a presentation. I can’t claimed to have tried or tested any of them (yet), or that they are the most fundamental strategies to a good presentation. They are simply tips that spoke to me, and as such, I hope will be similarly valuable to other PhD students, academics or anyone giving a presentation. So, please do browse the tips here, download the PDF, and share any other presentation advice you may have.

Download 20 Tips for Top Academic Presentations

Note: These are not my tips, just ones I’ve picked up. Links to all my sources are included at the end of this post. 

Approaching the Presentation

  1. Don’t cover too many ideas. Develop the key message of your presentation, something that can be reduced to a single sentence and that everything else in the presentation supports.
  1. Don’t think about your presentation in terms of a paper, think about it as a story; stories stick in an audience’s mind.
  1. Give your presentation a beginning, middle and end which set the stage, piques the interest, and wraps it all up respectively.
  1. Make the presentation relevant to the audience. This involves placing yourself in the mind of the audience and tailoring the content, style and delivery of your presentations accordingly. Your presentation should tell the story of your research in a way that everyone present can understand.
  1. Engaging the audience is the most important. In general, less in more: focus on the message rather than the data and ask what the audience needs to know rather than what you want to tell them.
  1. Bring a personal touch to your story. The audience will want to understand what motivated your research so explain how the work emerged and evolved. Did your plans change overtime? Are there any anecdotes that could be used to illustrate the motivation for the work? This will help an audience connect with you and your work.
  1. You don’t have to provide all the answers. Work-in-progress presentations allow you to share the work you have carried out to date, the ways you have approached the research (and why), what you have discovered, and how you plan to progress the work.

Preparing the Presentation

  1. Organise your content in a way that makes sense, the links between slides should be logical.
  1. Thinking in threes gives a balance and rhythm to presentations. Try and develop three main sections that divide into as many groups of three as necessary. Using a matrix of three to plan your presentation will allow you to focus on the message rather than the slides.
  1. Avoid having a slide at the beginning of a presentation outlining the order of the presentation, explain the structure of your story instead.
  1. Eliminate as much text as possible from a slide and use great visuals instead – but apply the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid.
  1. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Make sure you practice all aspects of your presentation, particularly the transitions between slides. Poor transitions make a presentation jerky. Rather than transitioning at the end of a sentence, try it during the course of one. It makes you sound professional and allows you to emphasise the overall narrative of your presentation’s story.

Delivering the Presentation

  1. Firstly, it’s ok to be nervous. Begin informally to build your confidence and connection with the audience. Keep it personal and conversational throughout.
  1. Introduce yourself at the beginning of your talk and state your ‘rank’ as this helps adjust the audience’s expectations for your presentation.
  1. Be enthusiastic, animated and direct. Move during the presentation, maintain eye contact with the audience and don’t speak to the screen.
  1. Try using objects as well as visuals in your presentation. They are a great way to engage the audience and illustrate points.

Dealing with Questions

  1. Always be polite.
  1. If you don’t know an answer, say so but offer a speculative answer or offer to do your research and get back with an answer at another time.
  1. If you are asked a question where the person has clearly misunderstood, or failed to hear something you said, simply answer the question as if it were perfectly acceptable.
  1. If you get an off-beat question that is purely designed to trip you up, don’t engage with it too deeply. Thank the questioner for the question, explain that you need to look into it more fully and offer to email the person the next day.


Reblogged with kind permission of the author from