Conference Presentations Part IV: Top 10 Most Randomly Useful Tips You Never Knew You Needed

I’m back with with Part IV in my series on giving engaging presentations, with all advice courtesy of a workshop series I recently attended, Taking Research from the Page to the Stage. Our words of wisdom for this post come from SSU Theatre and Speech Communication professors Julie Kiernan and Tom Healy.

Today I want to share the top 10 most randomly useful tips for making a presentation that you never knew you needed. At least, never knew I needed them!

Ja'Mie gif

Thanks, Ja’Mie. Source:

Without further ado:

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Conference Presentations, Part III: Q&A FYI

Today I’m continuing my series on all things related to giving presentations, inspired by a day of workshops masterminded by SSU Theatre and Speech Communication professor Julie Kiernan.

As some of you know, I presented at my first academic conference this past January. I practiced my talk by myself several times, recorded myself and listened to it on a loop, and made my friends and family listen to me and give me feedback. I thought I was READY.

Spongebob I'm Ready!


To my credit, my talk went just about as well as I could have hoped. Then my panel ended and the chair opened it up for questions. [Insert record scratch here.] Um, what?!

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Conference Presentations, Part II: Combating Anxiety

Much like Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, many of us are terrified of public speaking.


Giant hat and microphone combo FTW. Source:

Unfortunately, saying words in front of other humans remains an important part of academic life, especially at venues like conferences. In a continuation of my series on giving presentations, I want to share some tips and tricks I recently learned from Theatre and Speech Communication professor Julie Kiernan on dealing with public speaking anxiety.

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Conference Presentations, Part I: Developing an Elevator Pitch

This semester, I’ve written a few posts about making conference presentations (check out the conference tag for a full list). This is a topic that has been increasingly important to me, as I’ve started to more actively participate in the scholarly work in my field by attending and presenting at conferences.  But giving conference talks and other kinds of presentations is something that I had never received any formal training in — and from the feedback I got from some of you on those earlier posts, it seems like I’m not alone in that experience.

But all that changed this past weekend, when I attended a fabulous day of workshops sponsored by my university called “Taking Research from the Page to the Stage.” The brain child of Prof. Julie Kiernan, of my school’s Theatre and Speech Communication department, these workshops offered explicit instruction on a wide range of topics related to making presentations. I got a TON of great ideas that I am just dying to share with all of you.

So, inspired by my friend Danah’s blog series on 21st century literacies, this post kicks off what will be a series of several posts on all things presentation. Today, let’s talk about the elevator pitch.

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Writing the Brief Academic Bio: A Genre Study

My Digital Writing class and I currently have something big in the works. I’m hoping to be able to share more the details of that project with you soon, but in the meantime, I thought I’d talk a little bit about a related piece of writing I’m working on now: the brief academic biography.

This is a genre most often needed when preparing a work for publication or submission to a conference. At first glance summarizing your academic-self in 50-100 words might SOUND really easy, but surprise! It’s for sure NOT.

grumpy cat making ironic shocked face

Source:… and of course Grumpy Cat.

If anything, it is more challenging than the longer academic bio or CV (see my blog post on CVs herebecause it is so condensed. You are forced to be entirely thoughtful of your content and syntax, right down to the word level. No fluff here.

Unfortunately, as a Master’s student, I’m in the awkward position of not having yet done a significant amount of scholarship in my field — or even necessarily having established exactly what that field is. So unlike a PhD student, postdoc, or professor, I don’t have a particularly meaningful body of research to refer to in the bio. My solution? Do a little recon on some typical conventions of the genre (specifically, the brief academic biography of grad students) to find out what is considered kosher to include and what isn’t. Here’s what I found:

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Tips from an Actor on Public Speaking

My partner is a professional actor. There are many perks to this. We get to see lots of live theatre together. Sometimes I see him naked on TV (true story). And recently, when I presented at my first conference, I learned yet another benefit to dating an actor: he has great insight into what makes effective public speaking.

In some ways, giving an academic presentation, whether at a conference or in class, is not so different from a staged performance. The speaker is definitely “acting” in some ways. She is probably highly conscious of her posture, her diction, her volume, her gestures, all the same things that an actor onstage must think about.

To be, or not to be... a public speaker. Source: Creative Commons

To be, or not to be… a public speaker. Source: Creative Commons

With that in mind, here are some of the insider tips and tricks from Paul, a professional actor, on how to deliver an engaging presentation.

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The C-Word

That’s right, I’ll say it – CONFERENCES.

I’ll probably be talking a fair bit about conferences this semester, since I just attended, and presented at, my first one last month (read a little bit more about the learning curve I experienced here). Attending and presenting at conferences is an important part of scholarly life. Unfortunately the genre of the conference paper was one with which I was, up until about two months ago, entirely unfamiliar. For those of you who are similarly uncertain about what a conference paper should look like, I wanted to walk you through my process of applying to and composing for my first conference.

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