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Don't Forget Your Dongle: Tips for Successful Conference Presentations

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

Whether you are a first-time presenter or a seasoned one, it is important to develop your slides and prepare your presentation as early as possible. Here are some tips for successful conference presentations.

1. Storytelling

Memorable presentations involve storytelling. Take your audience on a short journey and tell the story of your research (use humor, share your personal experiences, explain how you got involved in this research, who inspired you or guided you). Determine what are three most important takeaways in your presentation, and what you think the audience should remember. Instead of text-heavy content use interactive infographics, such as timelines, polls, and other visuals to explain complex concepts and engage your audience (see these examples).

2. Get away from lecture-style presentations

Know your audience and be mindful of your body movements. Think about ways to make your content valuable and creative. Explore presentation tools such as Prezi and Visme to communicate your ideas in more compelling ways. Show your enthusiasm, smile, and make eye contact during your presentation. You could design an ice-breaker activity, leave blanks on your slides and solicit audience feedback, and engage your audience in a small discussion and Q&A session during your presentation.

3. Anticipate questions

Anticipate questions that your audience might ask, make a list, and come up with answers ahead of time. If you run out of time, mention to your audience that you will be happy to answer additional questions via email or social media.

4. Tailor your presentation

Create your slides early and continue revising the focus of your presentation, structure, and format over time. Tailor your slides to your presentation format (e.g., paper presentations, roundtable sessions, poster presentations, and other formats), be brief, and use large fonts (18-22 pt font).

5. Be aware of your time limit

Prepare enough material to complete your presentation within the allocated time. Have some back-up slides that can help you answer some questions from the audience and leave at least five minutes for audience questions.

6. Practice, practice, practice

Run through your presentation: review visuals and establish how they link to your presentation. Do you have enough content? Is there overlap? In what ways does your presentation complement other presentations? Do your slides flow logically? Are they aligned with your objectives? Did you include your email on the first and last slides? Before the conference, do a final run-through. Do not read your presentation.

7. Be aware of technology issues

AAAL provides the projector screen and video cabling. Bring your own adapters to output to a standard VGA or HDMI connection (e.g., Apple dongle, HDMI cable, HDMI/VGA converter etc.). Also, to prevent some technology issues, save your slides on a thumb drive, make a hard copy of your presentation, and have your own laptop handy, and check if you have proper access to the necessary equipment in the presentation room the day before your presentation.

We hope you find these tips helpful. Visit more tips on conference presentations and networking tips on our YouTube channel.

What are your tips for successful conference presentations? What is the most memorable presentation you attended and why was it memorable? Share your tips by commenting on this blog post or join our Facebook ( and Youtube discussions. Good luck with your presentation preparation and see you at 2019 AAAL!!!

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