Presenting was… hectic. We had some technical difficulties, though we were able to wrap them up during my presentation. Still, I think it went well. Some tips for people prepping their first presentations:
*Read your presentation out loud to yourself repeatedly. Time it. One of the big problems that other presenters had was simply going over time. A little more careful prep work would have totally removed that worry. Because of our technical issue, I was really worried about time, too, but I got a compliment on my calm demeanor in the face of techie adversity and I wasn’t noticeably late, so it’s all good.
*Take a watch up to the podium with you. I meant to, was startled by tech issue, forgot and regretted it.
*Make eye contact as much as possible.
*When you practice your presentation, figure out just what works, not just for you, but for that presentation. Be rigorously, brutally honest. For example, I usually create an outline, make a Powerpoint that follows the draft and then practice out loud a few times. This time, however, my presentation was full of theory, my responses to those theories, others’ responses to those theories, my responses to the responses… NOT the kind of thing that one can reliably get right each and every time off the cuff. So I read from a written paper. A friend presented an interesting topic without a written outline and ended up giving a bit too much weight to a minor point at the end by accident – which she then got some pointed questions about. She told me later that she wished she had written something down. On the other hand, other presentations less based in critical theory were successfully delivered informally, and at least one presenter that I went to see read a paper in such a quiet, accented, mumbly voice that I barely caught anything. It varies.
*Use criticism/questions constructively. I mean that in the sense of “not destructively. If people ask you a critical question that you have trouble answering, all it means is that they have thought of an angle or weakness you didn’t. An angle you can now follow in your research, a weakness you can correct before you publish. And really, presenting a paper with a weakness is nothing. Presented papers are often “in progress”, meaning at varying states of research. I’ve always assumed that there ought to be a weakness in a presented paper.
*When answering questions, answer quickly. If the answer is, by the nature of the question, extensive, offer to go over it in detail later. You’ll be presenting with other people, and it’s generally polite for everyone to get at least one question. Don’t take up all the Q&A time.
So, how did it go for me? I got a few compliments (yay!), a pair of interesting questions (yay!) and a suggestion for how to expand my paper (should I use it for my dissertation) with the concomitant suggestion that if I did expand it, a certain journal might be interested in publishing it (double yay!). All in all, a successful hour and a half.
Aside from the actual presentation, I was able to go to a great party (that I’m not, in retrospect, sure I was actually invited to), hang out with friends I haven’t seen in awhile and visit Grad School town, which was all sorts of fun.