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Posted Sept. 9, 2013

Tips On Your First Conference as a Postgrad

It's happened! The abstract that you submitted for an upcoming academic conference has just been accepted. It's a bit of a surprise, since you weren't expecting to be a presenter at such an elite conference. Relax, you still have a couple of months to prepare for the presentation, which will be your first as a postgraduate student.

Be Prepared Preparation is the secret ingredient of a great presentation.
  • Is your research current or did a new article related to your work appear just last week in your favourite journal? A quick but thorough literature search may provide some new details for your presentation. Double check your own statistical information or experiment results for errors. Look through the conference proceedings from previous years to see, if there is an established format for presentations.
  • Are you speaking from notes or from PowerPoint slides? Avoid reading your presentation. This can be boring for the audience. If you are a little bit nervous, PowerPoint is a great help. Use key phrases on each slide and elaborate on each phrase. Just remember to use a big enough font! The people sitting at the back need to see too.
  • Practice delivering your presentation a few times to anyone who will listen and provide feedback. But don't do it so often that you lose your enthusiasm for the topic. If you have 20 minutes on the programme, make the actual presentation length less. This allows time for questions. Give some thought to potential questions, and prepare possible responses in advance.
  • If you send your electronic presentation ahead of time, make sure you have a copy with you.

Be professional

  • Dress appropriately for your first academic conference. This is more important than you might think.
  • Perhaps, your presentation is actually a poster. A poster is a wonderful way to summarize and display your work in a nutshell. Poster sessions also provide an opportunity to make valuable contacts. A useful website with reviews of poster software, design tips and effective ways to present your poster can be found here - and it has many useful ideas for a first time presenter at an academic conference. Have your poster printed and laminated by a printing company with experience in conference posters. If you're unsure about the size of the poster, check with the conference organizer.
  • If you are using handouts, make sure that they are error free, and don't forget to add your name and contact information

Networking Your first academic conference is a great way to make valuable contacts in your chosen profession, particularly, if you're job hunting . If you're the least bit shy, networking can be difficult. To meet new people, sit in a different spot each day. Attend the social programme, and mix with some individuals who aren't postgrad students. Invite someone on their own for a drink or a walk.

Conferences can be exhausting. If you've travelled to an area of the UK that you don't know, think about taking a few days holiday after the conference in York, Manchester , the Lake District or wherever to relax. You deserve it!

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