Tips for Paper Presentations

Adapted from “Western Psychological Association Convention Instructions for Delivering Presentations,” Eye on Psi Chi, Winter, 1998, pp. 35, 42. Reprinted with permission of Psi Chi Honor Society.

These guidelines do not address the quality of the idea being presented, but focuses on what can be done in the preparation and delivery stages of a talk to enhance its audience appeal by making it more comprehensible, interesting, and memorable.

The oral presentation of a paper is usually limited to a 12-minute presentation of your research. Speakers should rely on handouts for all supplemental materials; however, either a 35-mm slide projector or an overhead projector for transparencies may be available during the presentation.

Recognize the constraints imposed on your presentation:

1. The short time of only 12 minutes (with an additional 3 minutes for questions).

2. The limits on attention and comprehension of your audience members who are listening to many presentations each day, some of which are outside their area of expertise.

3. The context of the session in which people may enter and leave at any time causing distractions and a less-than-ideal listening/learning situation.

Therefore, it is recommended that in preparing your talk you:

1. Decide on a limited number of the significant ideas you want your audience to code, comprehend, and remember.

2. Minimize details (of procedure, data analysis, and literature review) when highlighting the main ideas you want to transmit.

3. State clearly in simple, jargon-free terms what the point of the research is, what you discovered, and what you think it means—its conceptual, methodological, or practical value.

4. Employ some redundancy in repeating important ideas to enhance comprehension and recall.

5. Write out your presentation as a mini-lecture (with a listening audience in mind), starting with an outline that you expand into a narrative.

6. Practice delivering it aloud in order to learn it well, to make its length fit in the time allocated, and to hear how it sounds.

7. Get feedback both from tape-recorded replay of your delivery and from critical colleagues who listen to it.

8. Do not read your paper. Speak your ideas directly to your audience, referring—if necessary only—to an outline of key points and transitions.

9. Try to speak loud enough, clear enough, and with sufficient enthusiasm to hold the attention of your audience.

10. State your final conclusions and end on time.

You should have available for distribution, copies of a printed version of your paper with the details of the research (about 25 or more) and/or a sign-up sheet on which interested people can request the paper. Be sure to indicate on the paper your identification, the conference source reference, and whether or not it may be quoted.

It is an honor to have the opportunity of being in the spotlight with an audience of peers giving you their time and attention. You have an obligation to them (and to your profession) to use that occasion wisely and well.



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