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5 Tips for Preparing Conference Presentations

Here we are, one month away from our annual conference. For those of you who are presenting this year, you may have started thinking about your presentation. If this is your first time presenting, it is important to start the prep work as early as possible (perhaps even ask a few close friends or advisor to practice with you)!

Here are 5 tips for our conference presenters:

  1. Time your presentation: Work to make sure you stay on time. Be cautious with your materials so as to not go below or exceed your allotted presentation time. If possible, leave at least five minutes for your audience to ask questions.

  2. Prepare handouts for your audience: Ideas usually flow really fast and sometimes can be hard to follow during presentations, so the audience will always appreciate handouts that they can refer to when listening to your presentations. Yet, it is always a hassle and somewhat costly to use the printing service at the conference venue, so be sure to prepare the handout and print it out before the conference. Alternatively, make a QR code of your presentation slides/posters and share with your audience!

  3. Design your presentation slideshow: If you are doing a paper presentation or round table, most likely you will prepare a slideshow. When designing your slides, adhere to the following rules: (1) Try to use 32-point font, with high contrast colors; (2) put as little text as possible on your slides; avoid simply reading from the slides; (3) use dark colors for fonts and light colors for background; the light color fonts/dark color background combination sometimes gets a little messy (After all, you don't really know whether the projectors will behave or not); (4) keep your design simple; there is absolutely no need for a fancy design; just keep the color palette clean and allow the audience to focus on your content.

  4. Know your audience: The worst presenters are those who don't tailor their presentations according to the audience. It is important that you keep in mind who your audience is, what they may not know and what they may be interested in knowing. Are you presenting to scholars or teachers or school administrators? Does your audience know how to do research well? If so, perhaps there is no need to spend too much time talking about your research design, especially if you are using the common ones in applied linguistics field. Do not assume you need to educate your audience regarding the fundamental concepts. Before speaking to a group, perhaps you can ask them what they already know and why they are interested in your presentation.

  5. Don't forget to bring the necessary adapters: Oh, this cannot be stressed nearly enough!!! For individual paper, shared paper and colloquium, AAAL will provide the projector screen and video cabling. Yet, you MUST bring your own adapters to output to a standard VGA or HDMI connection. That means, Apple dongle, HDMI cable, HDMI/VGA converter etc. If you know you will output audios, double check with AAAL whether you'll have the proper access to the necessary audio equipment in your presentation room. The final line of defense to avoid technology failure is to arrive 10 minutes earlier. Give yourselves enough time to set up, check if everything works and even check in with other presenters or panelists.

We hope these five tips help and we welcome you to share any other tips for presentation preparation. Share your thoughts on this topic by commenting on this blog post or join our Facebook discussion ( Good luck with your presentation preparation and see you at 2018 AAAL!!

Ai-Chu (Elisha) Ding, Member-At-Large, GSC Steering Committee

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