Presenting at "outside" conference

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Posted by Christopher Altes, community karma 59

I am presenting at conference this week which is within my discipline, but outside of my focal region. I am torn between reading a paper and presenting some straightforward data, or having a bit more fun.

My paper is part of a larger symposium which looks to be pretty dynamic, and I am grateful for the invite, but really feel that my data (monte carlo computer modeling of random walks, so there is a lot of animation, graphs, and maps) can be presented better with a casual and informal approach.

I write, in part, because I went with the dry formal route at the last conference and it really did not go over well.

I work full-time in an industry related to my graduate work, so making a good impression is key for my professional development. One of the conference organizers is a professor with whom I would like to work with in the future in my academic work; as I understand it, he prefers less formal presentations.

This is compounded by the the fact that I do not see the people in my Department all that often. I travel for work a couple weeks a month and have limited opportunities to engage with professors and other students.

Who has some sage advice?

over 12 years ago

1 Comment

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Brian Cody, community karma 160912

As an audience member, I can say this: good presentations are about having a clear punchline following an engaging and easy-to-follow story – period.

I have seen job talks (both ones announced as such and more unofficially where the speaker was looking to impress potential hirerers) conducted very successfully through an informal style (here meant to mean less scripted and monologue-based), but it was because the speaker clearly knew the material backwards and forwards, evident through their ability to organize the data and logic in a way engaging to the audience and even "riff" in reaction to audience questions and the speaker's own random thoughts.

I am also an ardent believer in audience interaction as soon as possible. That moment when you see the speaker really thinking out loud, of "catching them in the act" of creating a way to explain their point in reaction to someone's question, is a truly human and dynamic moment – and for many people, the best way to produce such moments is through more informal styles that allow for lots of interruptions or tangents. I really appreciate "formal" speakers who can go for 50 minutes and be entertaining to watch, partially due to their acting or performing moments of puzzlement leading to insight, but I don't trust myself to do that.

I guess MY punchline, then, is to craft a really good story (so initial tension, action that tries to resolve that tension, and a final resolution) and then default to informal (see above definition) when in doubt.

over 12 years ago
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