Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 7 November 2008

Presenting at an academic conference

SPHS Panel - Dorianne, Susan Mazer, Dr. Valerie Bentz, Gayla Napier, Dr. Barbara Vititoe

SPHS Panel - Dorianne, Susan Mazer, Dr. Valerie Bentz, Gayla Napier, Dr. Barbara Vititoe

I have now attended two academic conferences in my short time as a PhD student, the Academy of Management (AOM) conference in August 2008, and the Society for Phenomenology and Human Sciences (SPHS) conference (October 2008).  There was a vast difference between the two conferences in style and presentation method.

The AOM conference was very large (several thousand attendees), well-organized and focused on management topics.  Therefore, the paper presenters mostly used MS Powerpoint and had short 1-3 page handouts.   The SPHS was much smaller (a few hundred attendees), loosely organized and focused on phenomenology and existential philosopy (lots of people walking around in black clothes – no kidding).  the presenters mostly read their papers verbatim and handed out full copies of their papers in many of the sessions.

I think it’s boring and old-fashioned to read one’s paper at a conference.  As an attendee, I want to hear the color and personal imprint surrounding a paper.  Our professor, Dr. Valerie Bentz, advised us to not read our papers.  Therefore, our panel was one of the most interesting and interactive presentations of the conference (per comments from our audience).

My handout consisted of a one page outline with a second page that described the four consciousness theories and three pages of quotes from my research interviews.  I used an annotated version of my outline as my presentation notes.  I practiced before-hand to time my presentation (20 minutes, plus 10 minutes for questions).  I highly recommend to anyone presenting a paper that they follow these simple rules:

  1. Don’t read your paper!
  2. Prepare and bring a short (1-5 pages) handout for the audience
  3. Use an outline or MS Powerpoint for the presentation.  There’s a number of rules for Powerpoint that I’ll cover in another post.
  4. Practice your presentation and time it – make sure you can get all your important points into the allotted time.
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