Archive for the ‘poster presentation’ Category

Conference Workshop Poster

On Friday, January 13th, I will be giving a presentation to Department of History graduate students. The topic? Conference presentations: tips, tricks, and things to remember.

I’m going to take a somewhat different tack than I normally would. It would seem, on the surface, an obvious place to design and give a lecture (complete, of course, with power point and copious note-taking by the audience). I’ve decided, however, to give the first ten minutes of a conference presentation that I have given to a real audience. Then, I’ll ask the students to dissect my presentation and give their own tips and tricks that they have used, read about, or think might be a good idea. A roundtable discussion, rather than a formal and one-sided presentation, will (I hope) be more effective.

Ideally, I’d like to see each of them give five minutes of a conference presentation that we could evaluate and give constructive critique, but that would take more time than we have.

Some points MUST be brought up, and I’ll be sure to do so if the students don’t spontaneously bring them up:

1. Choose a SMALL part of your research to present (part of one chapter, one strand of research, or one story to dissect).

2. No more than 8 pages double spaced (10 pages if larger font size, say 14 points) for a 20 minute presentation.

3. Practice it OUT LOUD. Time yourself. NEVER go over your time limit.

4. Use visuals and/or audio and/or artifacts; but DO NOT talk to the powerpoint.

5. NO JARGON! (And I would say, limited to no theory… save that for the written paper).

6. Dress nicely. NO casual clothes.

7. Use humour and storytelling. SHOW don’t TELL.

8. Voice techniques count: project, enuniciate, head up, look at your audience, slow down.

9. Leave room for questions (i.e. allude to ideas, points, etc. to give audience something to latch on to for questions)

10. Point out areas where you need help or would like audience ideas/response. Conferences are a super place to ‘workshop’ ideas in progress.

11. Re-word each question to be sure you understand it, before you answer it.

12. Thank the audience before you begin, and when all the questions are finished. This leaves a professional impression.

13. Have fun! Networking is best part of conference participation.

14. Remember: stuff happens. Powerpoints fail. Power goes out. Images don’t load. You get a rotten cold. Someone else has presented research that is too closely aligned to yours. Your methodology is old news. And, the airline lost your luggage and you have to present in your 2-day old clothes. Give it your all anyway — your audience will appreciate your humour, forthright disclosure, and modesty. There is always another conference…

All the best to you.

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Well, it was a fun afternooon. My thanks to the College of Arts and Science, particularly the Interdisciplinary Center for Culture and Creativity that put on the session.

In re-reading my previous post, I realize that I meant to use the word ‘expert,’ in quotation marks, and not expert! Placing first in one poster competition does not an expert make! My apologies — and a blatant example of the need for better editing before posting…

So, in my non-expert opinion, posters are a medium that offer a breadth of opportunity for students in the humanities and fine arts. We have just begun to touch the edges of what poster sessions can do for arts and humanities research. We don’t do academic posters in quite the same way as the sciences. Posters are an entirely visual and audience-responsive medium, and arts and humanities projects — art history, history, literature, drama, and languages, for example — could have a natural affinity. I encourage anyone, from students to museum researchers to archivists to high school teachers, to consider poster creation as a new way to tell stories. Perhaps posters could become the new 10-page written paper in your class syllabus…

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Next Wednesday, November 17th, the College of Arts and Science has asked that I give a workshop on how to put together a poster. Although posters are well-known vehicles for information dissemination at conferences for students in the sciences, they are less well-known for students in the Arts or Humanities. The session will be in advance of the now-annual poster competition put on by the College of Arts and Science.

How did I become an expert? Simple. I entered the contest myself in 2008 — and won.

I had an enormous amount of help, which deserves acknowledgement. Marley Waiser, a research scientist with the National Hydrology Research Center, Environment Canada, kindly edited my poster and made helpful suggestions. Her experience judging posters at numerous scientific conferences made her a natural candidate to help me shape my work. As well, I spent time looking around online for hints, tips, and tricks of the trade. My thanks to all those who have posted how-to information on their websites and blogs.

Posters are a fabulous medium for showcasing a portion of your research. I emphasize a portion, because few posters could ever be large enough to accommodate all the methodology, sources, and arguments contained in an entire thesis or dissertation. They can, however, serve as an appetizer, a public bite-sized taste of your work, to whet the academic appetite. Poster presenters have found incredible networking opportunities, jobs and careers, as well as invitations to write for or present their work in new forums, through poster competitions. They are worth every effort you take to craft a superb poster presentation.

To complement the upcoming poster session, I thought I would append a PDF of the winning poster that I did on the Great Trek migration to northern Saskatchewan during the Depression of the 1930s. 

 The Great Trek.poster

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