from the Claremont Graduate University
Writing Center Conference Paper Guide, Claremont Research University
Meet length and time requirements. This is extremely important. If you have 20 minutes, do not,
repeat, do not go to your panel with a paper exceeding 10-11 (double spaced; 12 point
font) pages in length. Going over your time limit will not make you
popular with the other speakers on your panel (or your audience). The
general rule is two minutes per double spaced, 12 point font page,
exclusive of citations. If your discipline uses footnote references or in-text citations, it
is helpful to transfer them to endnotes to make your paper easier to
follow as you read.
Practicing your presentation
should help you stay within your time limits.
Follow the conventions of your field and the conference. If
presenters are expected to read from a prepared text (often sent to a
commentator or chair prior to the conference), stick to the text. Make
sure everyone on your panel has a copy of the version you will present.
It is acceptable to make changes after you submit the paper, but be
sure you let the commentator or chair know about the changes to your
paper. Unless you are a very accomplished extemporaneous speaker, it is
extremely preferable to read from a prepared text rather than speaking
from notes or an outline alone. This prevents you from leaving out
important information (your thesis, for example), from wandering around,
and from going over your time limit.
Bring a bibliography to reference when answering questions. Take
notes of questions and suggestions that are important; you won't
remember them otherwise. You also look engaged and receptive when you
take notes of the audience's questions and suggestions. Don't be afraid
to say you don't know the answer to a particular question. The trick
is not to sound defensive, but to confidently say that that area is
something you really need to research, or that you'd like to take a look
at those sources, etc.
Show your audience that you are interested in the topic! Use vocal inflection and be engaging. Use your voice for projection and inflection. Don't forget the
importance of pauses. Don't be afraid of silence. Silence can be
extremely effective and is certainly preferable to filler words such as
"uh," "you know," and "like." Remember to relax!!
Speak slowly and clearly. Most people have a tendency to speak too fast when speaking in public.
Be relaxed, but maintain good posture. Stand up straight and hold your head up straight. Breathe quietly and deeply.
Use your hands sparingly. Too much use of the hands and repetitive motions are distractive.
Maintain eye contact with both sides of the room. Whether you are
reading, speaking from notes, or talking extemporaneously, it is
important to look at your audience. If it is difficult for you to look
directly at people, then look at their foreheads or just above their
Visual aids: Make a note to yourself in your paper where you are
going to use visual aids. Practice with your visual aids before you give
your presentation. Make sure your visual aids are clear. The content of visual aids
should support your points, not confuse the audience. If your visual aid
presents several columns of data, cover the
columns you have yet to discuss. Use large type on all visual aids.
Practice, practice, practice! Practice your presentation for friends, in front of the mirror, or on videotape.
Familiarize yourself with the room and adjust the microphone. Be aware of the environment of the room in which you
will speak (size of the room, quality of microphone, podium, height of
the lectern, etc.) and make sure to adjust the microphone to the proper position before you begin to
speak. Be conscious of where the microphone is, but do not lean into the
microphone. Make sure all the equipment works and that you know how to use it (VCR, projector, microphone, etc.).