What to Expect When You’re Presenting Guidelines for Political Science Conference Poster and Paper Presentations Prepared by Kerry Crawford, Lisel Hintz, and Michelle Jurkovich The following tips and guidelines are intended to assist GW Political Science graduate students with presenting research at professional conferences. Each person’s style is different, so this document is simply meant to provide friendly advice for conference presenters. The life of the conference paper proceeds in four stages: applying; preparing the presentation; giving the presentation; and following up. Preparing and giving the presentation will be different for panels and posters, so these steps are divided accordingly. 1. Applying to the conference (Advice for panels and posters) Keep track of deadlines, not just for major ones like MPSA, APSA, ISA but also topic- and region-specific ones like Democracy and Governance, Nationalities, Central and Eastern European ISA. Try not to get caught having to write an abstract the night before the deadline - but we've all done it and you won't be penalized for submitting. So if a brilliant idea comes to you at the last minute, try to write it up as coherently as you can. Think: would I want to read this paper? Also, think about the theme of the conference and how you can shape a class research paper to fit the theme. While it is often true that putting together a panel might make for easier acceptance (you're doing the work for the chair), sometimes panels have been rejected because of one paper the review committee didn't like. If you think you can put together a solid panel that is theme-relevant go for it. If not, don't be afraid to submit your paper on its own. Students in the department have had success both ways. For the abstract, some students write lengthy paragraphs that utilize the full amount of allotted words/characters, but others have found that five or six strong and clear sentences can get the job done. Don't feel like you have to fill the space. Good luck! 2. Preparing for the conference (Advice for panels) Congratulations on your acceptance! If you find your topic changes a little bit from when you originally submitted the abstract, no worries. There can be a little bit of wiggle room here, especially since you probably submitted the abstract 9 months in advance and long before you wrote the paper. Just be sure to contact the panel chair with your revised topic. Check out what kind of technology will be available to you for use during your presentation. Generally, the conference website FAQ will indicate this. If you have access to a projector and can hook up your laptop or someone else's, prepare a PowerPoint with pictures, maps, your research question, your thesis, and any other eye-catching bits that will connect you with your audience. You don't have to have a ton of information (and you shouldn't) presented visually, but having simply bullet points and images seems to make good presentations great. If you use PowerPoint, the "print slides with notes" feature is helpful. For people who get nervous when presenting, print reminders or quasi-scripts for the slides that are less familiar or more complicated. It's better to have notes and not use them than to need them and not have them. Practice your presentation a few times. It may seem silly to you while you're doing it, but it helps. If possible, practice in front of a friend, spouse, significant other, family member, or attentive pet because this is profoundly more awkward than presenting to a room full of strangers and you'll be much more confident for the actual presentation. Dress for success. Looking professional will make you feel more confident. Preparing for the conference (Advice for posters) Congratulations on your acceptance! If you lack swanky software, consider designing your poster as a Power Point slide and saving it as a .jpeg. Then you can upload the file online to your local poster printer (FedEx Kinkos printed mine). Budget around $60 for poster printing. This should get you a 3X4 poster. Splurge and get one of those cardboard tubes to carry it in, so it will be in good shape on conference day. At APSA they will provide a 8X4 feet board on which to pin your poster and a covered table in front of the poster to set your papers on. Consider what else you might draw out of your paper to put in the remaining space on the board (as your printed poster likely won't take the whole space). Enlarging your research question and allowing it to stand alone (and attract attention) is one option. Providing graphs or tables is another. Bring copies of your paper (plan on 20-30) with your business card stapled to the front. Have these available in front of your poster so that interested people can grab a copy of your paper and have your contact info. Have an "elevator pitch" planned. When people stop by, how will you market your project to them? What is puzzling about your project? Have a colorful poster (don't have a white background). Most posters will be white and bland. If yours isn't, it's more likely people will actually pay attention to it. :) DO NOT JUST PRINT OUT THE PAPER AND POST IT ON THE BOARD. Nobody will read it and you'll have missed out on a great opportunity. Dress for success. Looking professional will make you feel more confident. 3. Giving the presentation (Advice for panels) Sip water before you present to calm yourself down and keep your throat in top speaking shape! Have your first four sentences memorized in case you freeze up at the very beginning. This helps you ease into the presentation. Have fun! You’re giving a conference presentation, you smarty! Take notes when your chair/discussant is speaking about your paper. The discussant usually has awesome suggestions but it's hard to remember everything after the fact, so unless s/he says "I've printed this out for you and will give it to you later", scribble some notes. Take notes on audience questions if it helps you remember them and answer them more completely. If you don't know the answer to an audience question, don't fudge it, just admit that you haven't looked at that yet but you think it's a great addition/question and will research it. There may be regional specialists, experts on small matters you mention but that you don't focus on. You can thank them for their insight and follow up later. Listen to the other panelists and try to formulate questions or comments for them in case no one in the audience asks them anything. This makes you a good panel citizen. Use the ample opportunities to find and talk with scholars who are studying things you're interested in. Ask them questions about your research, their research, etc. Invite them to your panel if you feel bold. Get business cards if you don't already have them. People will ask you for your information and you do not want to hand them a scrap of notebook paper. Giving the presentation (Advice for posters) Wear comfortable shoes. You will be standing for 45 minutes talking to people. Arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled presentation time to set up your poster and get to know your poster neighbors. They are likely doing work that is similar to yours (the conference will attempt to group like posters together). When there is a lull in observers, take advantage of the opportunity to get to know your neighbors and ask questions about their research. Have fun and good luck! 4. Following up on your contacts and revising the paper (Advice for panels and posters) The paper can travel from MPSA to APSA or ISA - it's ok to present multiple versions of a paper at different conferences. Contemplate getting the paper ready for publication. You can use your first conference as a "think piece" and solicit feedback/suggestions/alternative perspectives and sources to consider. Also, take advantage of the opportunity to attend other panels; learn from others' presentations, both stylistically and substantively.
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