Presenting at the Convention

A few rules and practices can greatly improve your performance and enhance your presentation of your creative work or paper.

Rule No. 1: Check out the room in advance. Know where your session is to be held.

Rule No. 2: Plan to arrive for your session five minutes prior to the start time, introduce yourself to the session chair and moderator; and confirm the pronunciation of your name.

Rule No. 3: Stand at the podium to read your paper or creative work. If the room has no podium, stand anyway–your voice will more easily fill the space, and the audience will be able to see you.

Rule No. 4: Smile! Your work earned you this opportunity, so enjoy the experience.

Rule No. 5: Observe time limits and keep within the 8-15 minute time limit, to be courteous to your fellow panelists and to allow time for questions at the end of the session.

Rule No. 6: Enunciate, and speak audibly and slowly enough so listeners can follow along. With the exception of minor revisions to improve readability, do not improvise or deviate from the work that was accepted for convention.

Rule No. 7: Do NOT fidget. The attention of your listeners should be on your words. Avoid anything that draws their attention away from your words. Here are some of the classic distractions:


Rule No. 8: Listen to fellow panelists and jot down thoughtful comments and questions to ask them.

Rule No. 9: Save your improvisational skill for the question period, when you will need it. Then answer questions from the audience clearly and concisely.

Rule No. 10: Remember—you are among friends. To give a conference paper is to make yourself vulnerable; it’s the intellectual equivalent of stripping naked. You are taking your ideas out to strangers, so you are vulnerable to their criticism. Of course you are anxious; you would be foolish not to be. Think about the panelists and the audience as your friends. After all, despite the competition of other panels and other things the listeners could be doing, they have chosen to come hear you. They are obviously people of good taste and judgment; they are your friends. You are enthusiastically looking forward to meeting them. When you walk into the room, the thought in your head must be how happy you are to be there, what fabulous people are sitting out in the audience. That holds whether there are five people or 500. The good vibes will be catching.

Rule No. 11. Your clothing is always a signifier! Dress should be business attire. Sometimes women’s dressiest clothes are also a little low-cut, and that is NEVER appropriate for an academic meeting.

Excerpted and adapted with permission from LINDA K. KERBER, “Conference Rules, Part 2,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 March 2008: 1. Kerber, a professor of history and a lecturer in law at the University of Iowa, has served as president of the American Historical Association.