SfAA Student Committee: Conference Connection
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Conference Presentations Part II

Thank you for visiting. The SfAA Student Committee is excited to assist you by providing information on Presentations.
If there's a question you'd like to have answered please e-mail the Chair, Anne Ballenger and she will include it here!

Presentation Success
Conquering Presentation Jitters
~ Like many people, you may be nervous about speaking in public to your colleagues or to large groups of people. Not to worry, many of us are or were nervous presenters, particularly for our first time.

~ In fact, my first presentation at the Conference, wasn't the best one I've ever given either. I was more nervous speaking to a group of 20 people at a small Conference than I was presenting at a National Conference with over 100 people in the audience.
~Do you know why I was nervous?
Simply because it was my first "ANTHROPOLOGY" conference presentation. I was out of my element. I couldn't figure out what this "paper" format was. I was used to speaking with overheads or slides and walking about a bit as I talked. I was not familiar or comfortable with sitting at a table and reading verbatim from a paper.

Well, after all was said and done, I wasn't my best, but I wasn't at my worst. So, I learned the following things that I'd like to share with you. Perhaps they will help you to conquer your nerves.

Stay in your element.
Or rather, keep your presentation style. If you like to use overheads or slides, use them. If you are uncomfortable just reading from a paper, then DON'T Do It!

The Paper Style
~ Remember the "paper presentation" is a format developed by academics for academicians. They don't receive tenure without those published papers and articles. So, this format makes sense for them.

~ Practicing applied anthropologists tend to make more presentations outside of academia and are used to presenting information in a variety of ways to outsiders. Often, we are called on to present to Boards, Community Groups, Non-governmental Organizations, and government agencies. Each has a different style of communicating and receiving information.

~ For example, can you imagine sitting with Lee Iacoca and reading him your paper? I didn't think so. The same is true for applied anthropologists. Given we are a diverse crowd, reading from your paper is acceptable, as well as, doing a slide presentation.

~ However, if you participate in a panel that has a discussant you will be asked to forward your paper or presentation to her/him before hand. Be prepared! Make sure your presentation has content and don't submit an outline. Submit the presentation with slides and your speaking content if you are using that medium. Otherwise, how can you expect the discussant to comment?

Do An Outline First
One of the best ways to do a paper or a presentation is to do an outline first. Divide up your paper into small chunks by diving it up into its parts.
For example:
  • Introduction
  • Research Question
  • Research Design
  • Data Gathering Methods
  • Problems Encountered
  • Results
  • Conculsion

Then, add your subcategories and topics like:
  • Introduction
    • Acknowledgements
      • Research Funders
      • Research Partners
    • Background
      • In 1999, 60,000 Influenza Deaths occurred among 0-5 year olds in Laurel, Md.
  • Research Question
    • This study asks: "How the Health Department and the Community Mobilized Social Networks to Identify Potentially Ill Babies"
      • And further, examined, "How different cultural constructions of illness and healing between medical professionals and community members were construed as detriments to illness prevention.
    • And so on ...
Just keep adding information section by section with a sentence underneath each. Before you know it, your paper is written!

Overheads or Slides
Even if you are not going to use this medium. Doing overheads or slides forces you to identify and organize your main points and sub-points. This is an excellent way of organizing and learning your presentation before you go to present.

Practice Makes Perfect
The best way to avoid overwhelming nervousness is knowing what you are going to say. I know this might simplistic, but its true.
Now that you've written your presentation, do you know how long it will take you to say all that?
Yep, the answer is practice ~ trail runs and timing. Here are some tips:
  • Practice Alone.

  • ~ Do the first couple of times on your own with a watch and see how long it takes you to read it aloud. Too, long? It's time for editing. Too, short? Time to beef it up.
    ~ Divide your presentation up into time increments. For example, 1 minute for intro, 1 minute for research question, 3 minutes for design, 5 minutes for results, 3 minutes for implications and 2 minutes for conclusions. See where you are at each interval, write down the time, and adjust accordingly.
  • Ask your friend, fellow student, partner to listen to your presentation.

  • Yep, gotta have some outside feed back.
    ~ Ask them to time you & write down where you are in the presentation at 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes and 13 minutes.
    ~ Ask for honest feed back. Did you spend too much time on your intro? Did you bore them? Are there areas which are unclear? And so on. When you've got that down, you are ready for the next phase.
  • Ask your professor to listen to your presentation.

  • ~ Ask them to listen twice, if they can. Once for content and the second for time.
    ~ Remember your professor is your ally - he/she wants you to do a great job! Listen to his/her advice.
  • Ask to do your presentation to a class

  • This a great way to practice in a similar environment without a huge amount of pressure. Ask for feedback and review afterwards. Take questions - you'll be better prepared for any audience questions at the conference.

Stay on Target: Time & Topic
~ One of the most frustrating things to deal with as a presenter and a listener is the time factor. It's disappointing when someone is giving a great presentation, but they run out of time.
~ Also, it's disappointing when a presenter has become distracted and he/she is rambling on. When his/her time runs out, you wonder - just what was that presentation about?
All these are distressing results of not staying on target. Here are some hints for staying on target.
  • Take Questions At the End

  • Simple advise, but sometimes people interrupt you and next, thing you know you are off on a tangent for 5 minutes! If someone asks a question that isn't - "Can you say that again? Can you speak up?" then, tell them you will answer their question at the end, so you can cover all the information you have. Be polite, but firm.
  • Stick to Your Plan

  • If you have an outline, stick to it. If you are using note cards, stick to them. Don't add anything extra. Because before you know it, you've talked 10 minutes and only have 5 to speed talk the rest!
  • Keep Your Own Time

  • ~ Wear a watch, take it off and set it out in front of you.
    ~ Insert into the margin or the end of a paragraph in your text - "Look At Watch" or "Check Your Time". This way you know if you are running behind and can speed it up or slow it down if you're ahead of schedule.

More to come… Visit Presentations Part III.