Eight Things to Do to Leverage Your Next Conference Presentation

I think researchers do not do enough to make the most of their invited, and peer reviewed presentations. Both oral, and posters. So, in this podcast, I give you 8 tips to help you get more engagement from your conference presentations.


Hi there! This week's vlog is all about making the most of your next conference presentation or your next conference poster. One of the things that I come across often with the people that I coach is that they have opportunities to present their research. The focus is all about the talk itself which is obviously a great place to start. But there are lots more things that you can get out of your talk than just having presented to a bunch of other academics.

I think the first thing if you're open to it is to present work in the context of being open to improvement. Well, obviously if you're presenting something that's been published, maybe you want to present it in a way that what do we do next. But if you haven't presented work that has been published yet, presenting work in a way that encourages others to comment on it will make a more robust. It'll engage them in the conversation. More particularly, if you let them talk about how your project or your piece of work would be enhanced by other work or could be enhanced by additional controls or additional experiments.

The next thing to do is to think about making sure the focus of your talk is up front of the talk rather than at the end. Obviously, in science anyway and in the social sciences as well humanities, research papers have a similar structure of introduction or background aims, methods conclusion. Sorry, results, conclusion, and discussion. That's often the way that we present our talk. With the reality is the bit that matters to you as a researcher is probably the results section. You want to present those, and the bit that matters to the audience is probably the discussion / conclusion section, and they want to talk about those. Yet, we spent ages on the intro, and most likely our audience already knows everything that they need to know that they're in the audience for a reason because they're in the field. Don't be afraid to either restructure talk backwards so put the important stuff first or to basically have one slide that says "Here's the introduction. I'm not going to do any more intro because I assume you know everything that you need to know in terms of the background for this piece of work, and so I'm gonna get and straightaway talk about my results or what it means for the field.". Obviously, you need to follow a good conference design besides that. Slides with minimal words don't read slides. Make sure you learn how to present well. Project your voice. Look up. Look at the people. Engage your audience.

The other thing that you can do if you're looking to leverage it for a piece of work or leverage your presentation for collaborators is to set that up at the start of the talk. Invariably, research that you're presenting probably covers some cases 10 or 15 years. Certainly, probably 10 or 15 months and you're asking, and you're presenting that work in 10 or 15 minutes. So be up front. Say that "This work, this represents work that went for the last 10 months. It's my talk will go for 10 minutes. At the end, I'll provide a way for you to engage with me or contact with me about collaborating or providing more work or providing more answers in more detail.". And then what that can mean is that at the end of your talk, you can say "The best way to get in touch with me is to send me an email.", "The best way to get in touch with me is to connect on Twitter.", "Well, the best way to get in touch with me is to connect on LinkedIn.". So, ask for that connection. Ask for the people to get in touch with you. Say, "This is how to do it.", and make sure that you make yourself available on whatever platform or service that you've said, "This is how you connect with me.".

When it comes to poster presentations follow good poster presentation design. There are heaps of resources out there, and there is a massive shift to put less information on posters rather than more. Being for a poster to be able to be read from as much as 3 metres away which is a huge change to the way the posters have been written in the past. Probably, quite different to what you may be used to. So have a go of that kind of poster design. You'll probably find you'll get better engagement. More people interested in talking to you about your work. Whether you do the ring a poster or a talk, make sure you've got stuff that you can hand out. So that could be a business card, a flyer or a one-page summary of research. Something that you can give to someone that says, "Here is some information about me, and my topic, and here's how you can in touch.". Conversely, make sure you've got a pen, and something you can write on so that you can take their information or if you want to use digital technology, you can connect with them on LinkedIn or connect with them on Twitter straightaway. But importantly for yourself, you'll need to take a note of why you've connected, what you connect it over, and then you want to drive that connection later on. So, send that follow-up email, send that follow-up tweet or direct message that says, "Hey, researcher we connected at conference just following up seeing how you're going. What did you think do you want to meet those kinds of things.".

Increasingly with COVID-19, we're going to not be catching up face-to-face. That's going to mean digital connection. So, if you're doing a digital presentation, the easiest thing to do is get people to type something into the chat box. If you want to connect you might say to them "Hey, type in connect into the chat box and I'll send you an email." or "Type in more info into the chat box and I'll give you more information about the research protocol." or "Type in paper, and I'll send you an electronic copy of the research paper." or the methods or whatever it is that you're willing to share with these people, and maintain a future connection with them.

What I should have mentioned as well about your talk, if you are looking for work as part of you know let's say your research contract is coming to an end. You know, be open with your supervisor about you making this talk, but you could say that the work is no longer has funding or it's going to reduce in funding, and then from "X" day it'll be looking for additional funding. Let people know that that's what you're looking for because they might be able to help you either by being a collaborator or actually funding the research or perhaps even taking you on into their research team.

The final thing is to make sure you that you're easy to meet with. I think we researchers, we can lose track of time, and we perhaps don't follow up or perhaps we don't meet people. So, at the end of your talk or when you meet with someone face to face at a poster session, say to them "I'll be at this bar at this time." or "I'll be at this coffee cart at this time." or if it's online, you might set up your own Zoom room that says "After my talk whatever, 6 o'clock tonight, I'll be in this Zoom room. Here's the link.", and then people can come along and have a chat with you a bit more personally perhaps. Certainly, in more detail at a longer time. Spend more time getting to know you in your research.

So, there are some tips that you might want to implement for yourself in terms of getting more out of your conference presentation or poster presentation.

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