31 March 2012 22:26
I have been accepted to do a conference presentation in two weeks. Which is amazing!
I am a first year Phd student. I have had a pretty rough time of it since i started in September. I have had a bereavement plus two family accidents. I found it tough juggling the work and personal life but I pushed myself into my work and feel I've accomplished a lot.
So I sat down over a week ago to write the presentation and have completely lost my confidence. The conference is not specific to my area but is general to my field. I have looked at the other abstracts in my panel and they are relevant. Even better my abstract fits nicely between them.
My problem is I did the power point, then scraped it. Then started a written speech and although i felt this worked better, i still don't think it is good enough. Even worse i have now lost the idea i want to discuss. I was using my literature review and then adding my ideas.
My supervisor says to keep it exciting, don't over quote and don't use to much jargon but no matter what way I do it my ideas come across weak and boring.
Has anyone else had a similar experience?
This is my first conference and although I feel ok about speaking in public it is more the content that scares me.
I'm starting to freak out.
Thanks in advance.
01 April 2012 16:04
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That's great news about your conference presentation. It's good to start early and people are generally easy on PhD students especially 1st year ones so don't worry about that. You could just say that as an ice breaker before you start when you introduce yourself.
What format is your presentation - they usually specify what they want. Usually it's a 15-20 min PowerPoint presentation with 5 mins for questions.
I'd keep the format simple - intro/background, aims/objectives of study, methods, any results you have, future work.
I wouldn't worry about the exciting part as my supervisor used to say the same thing but I think that'll come across by your enthusiasm for the topic through the talk. Try to keep the text to a minimum and include pictures/diagrams etc... to break up the writing as there's not worse that reading a block text on a slide. Use bullet points that fade in when you need to use text so you're not hit by a lot of text.
It sounds fine what you're doing so keep at it.
Good luck and I am sure it'll go well.
I'm impressed you've signed up for a talk already as it took ages for me to build myself up to talks!
01 April 2012 16:44
They have asked for max 20mins and then 10min of questions. I sort of pushed myself into applying, i was so worried that because of all the personal things going on I would fall behind. Being accepted to the conference did give me a confidence boost.
The abstract that i sent in was specific to one aspect of my research rather than an overview of the whole thesis. Although i have a lot of things to say it is the structure and arrangements of points that i'm struggled. Thanks for your guidelines, it will certainly give me a structure to work with.
I think i will go with your suggestion about fading bullet points. I have worked a little more on a structured speech and i think it will work well, combining the two ideas together will help me keep calm and also make it interesting.
Thanks for all the advice.
01 April 2012 17:33
I would advise trying to find any opportunity to practice giving your presentation to a real audience.
Before i went to my first conference, I booked myself into a seminar slot for my research group so that i could practise the presentation. I gave them an extended version of my conference presentation (i had an hour with them, but only 15 mins at the conference) and i found this really helped. Particularly as my research group are always fairly tough on internal speakers, much moreso than they are on the external ones! This meant, i had to consider some tough questions on the spot.
Because of this, I found that in the actual conference, it was much easier to present as i'd already done it once, and also one of the same tough questions came up, but i already had an answer prepared.|
02 April 2012 09:24
|The classic approach is this:
1. Tell them what it is that you are going to tell them
2. Tell them
3. Tell them what you told them
This translates as:
1. Intro to the topic, typically a title slide and 2 or three additional slides giving a background to the topic and where your work fits in. A brief overview of what your work has been.
2. Step by step detail of what your work has been
3. Conclusions, relating the work back to the overview.
I've posted a few times with tips for actual presenting skills, here is a brief overview (if you search you should be able to find the first one I did which is more in depth - it was a while ago though as a response to someone else's question.
1. Speak slowly and clearly
2. Allow yourself time to think - a silence of a few seconds is actually ok, it will feel like an age to you but the audience will barely notice.
3. People want you to do well. Ever watched someone truly screw it up? Horrific isn't it? You didn't want them to go wrong though, you were willing them to do well. So is everyone watching you. If you make a slight mistake then no-one minds, they want you to succeed and will overlook your errors because they all know exactly what giving a presentation is like.
4. Practice - even if it's just to yourself under your breath in front of your PC. Try and organise a practice infront of friends who are very supportive if you can. As I said though, no one is going to want you to do badly so practice in front of anyone and ask for constructive feedback.
5. RELAX. If you were chatting to a friend you could talk about your research for 20 minutes easily. Therefore you can easily talk about your research for 20 minutes to a room full of friends. Don't take it too seriously!
6. Cue cards are good, a written speech isn't. A written speech comes across cold. Only do this if you really feel you have to. Instead make cue cards with large bullet points of each topic to cover on each slide. Perhaps write out your very first sentence in full though, this will give you confidence early on.
Hope some of that helps and I'm not telling you stuff you already know! Try to enjoy it, turn your nervous energy into excitement rather than fear (easy to say!)|
14 April 2012 17:57
I just wanted to give you all an update on my conference paper. I present the paper yesterday and after a last minute panic i think it went well. I was worried about the content and structure, but i realised after your posts and speaking to different PhD students that everyone was different. So i specifically designed my paper to my own project and personality. i think it worked well. A senior lecturer at the university that i presented at even said that it was "Refreshing". That has given me a great confidence boost, which if you have read my past posts, i needed.
I realise now why PhD students are encouraged to attend conferences as it doesn't only give you a chance to network but it can give the student and their project a boost.
I was freaking out before hand but it was worth doing.
Just wanted to say thanks to everyone in the forum that helped with my PANIC, but i got through it in end.