How to Prepare for a Paper Presentation at an Academic Conference

 In my previous post, I laid out a timeline for choosing an academic conference.  This post will lay out four steps to help you successfully prepare for a paper presentation at an academic conference.

Pay attention to the deadline for proposals

Your proposal outlines the paper you are going to write, not a paper you have written. You may treat your proposal as a commitment device to “force” you to write the paper, but the final paper may well differ from your original intention.

The Claremont Graduate University Writing Center offers some good examples of proposals here.

Write a winning abstract to get your paper accepted into the conference. 

Scaling the Ivory TowerAbstracts are an afterthought to many graduate students, but they are the what the reviewer looks at first. To get your paper accepted to a conference, you’ll need to write an abstract of 200 to 500 words.

The emphasis should be on brevity and clarity. It should tell the reader what your paper is about, why the reader should be interested, and why the paper should be accepted.

Additionally, it should:

  • Specify your thesis
  • Identify your paper fills a gap in the current literature.
  • Outline what you actually do in the paper.
  • Point out your original contribution.
  • Include a concluding sentence.

Academic Conferences and Publishing International offers some additional advice on writing a conference abstract as you prepare for your paper presentation at an academic conference.

Pay attention to your presentation itself.

In order to convey excitement about your paper, you need to think about your presentation as well as the findings you are communicating.

Note the conference time limit and stick to it. Practice while timing yourself, and do it in front of a mirror. I also recommend practicing in front of your peers; organizing a departmental brown bag lunch could be a great way to do this. As you are preparing, keep in mind that reading from notes is better than reading directly from your paper.

Once you arrive at the conference, check the location of the room as soon as you can before the event. Arrive early to make sure any audiovisual equipment you plan to use is working, and be ready to present without it in case it is not.

Always stand when giving your paper presentation at an academic conference. Begin by stating your name and institution. Establish eye contact across the room, and speak slowly and clearly to your audience. Explain the structure of your presentation. End with your contribution to your discipline. Finally, be polite (not defensive) when engaging in discussion and answering questions about your research.

By focusing on (a) making sure your work contributes something to your field (b) adhering to deadlines and convincing conference organizers that your paper is worth presenting and (c) creating a compelling presentation that aptly highlights the content of your research, you’ll make the most of your time at the conference.

More on Navigating an Academic Career

Career Resources

Book: Scaling the Ivory Tower

Whether you've just begun graduate school, working on your dissertation, or on the academic job market, this guide can help you navigate an academic career.

With advice from established professors like Dr. Michael Munger and Matt Zwolinski, this guide will help you make the most of your time in graduate school so that you can prepare for success in your teaching and publishing.

See more posts: Surviving Grad School 

You Might Also Like