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mads.trying
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17 Jul 2022, 6:12 pm

Hi! This is my first post on this site, and I just randomly found out about this community yesterday! I guess I was just hoping to get some advice from you all. I'm an undergraduate college student, and I have been accepted to give a poster presentation about some work I did for my research job at a big national conference. It's coming up at the end of this month, and I'm terrified. I've been preparing by memorizing a brief synopsis of my work, and I'm obviously familiar with all my material! I'm just so terrified that I'll freeze as soon as I have to talk to someone. The presentation will just be me, my poster, and an open floor with hundreds of other presenters for about 30 minutes straight. It's supposed to be pretty conversational, but I'm awful with having to be unscripted. It's also going to be a sensory nightmare, and I've been dreading it for months. I'm so scared that I'll humiliate myself. Has anyone had any experience with going to academic conferences or just giving a presentation of this type? If so, how did you get through it?



Mona Pereth
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19 Jul 2022, 4:55 pm

I haven't given presentations at academic conferences, but I've been on-stage under other circumstances.

I would suggest that you prepare by asking some friends and family members to ask you a bunch of questions about your work. This won't fully prepare you for every conceivable question, but the more practice you can get with answering various questions about your work, the better.


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Fnord
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19 Jul 2022, 5:06 pm

What helped me overcome anxiety about speaking at professional conferences were:

#1. Rehearsing my speech in front of a mirror.
#2. Rehearsing my speech in front of coworkers.
#3. Having the coworkers ask questions.
#4. Writing down their (serious) questions.
#5. Developing serious answer to those questions.
#6. Saying at the end of my speech: "I have time for only 3 or 4 quick questions."
#7. Seeding the audience with friendly coworkers who would ask only the "right" questions (see #4 and #5).

:wink: That is cheating, I know.



cyberdad
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19 Jul 2022, 5:18 pm

Experienced public speaker here

1. Practice so that you are confident what you will say (time yourself) there is no point getting up in front of people unless you have a clear understanding of what you are going to speak about
2, Focus on your presentation on the day not the audience (are you using powerpoint/poster?) block out sounds including people speaking (this is cruicial)
3, Maintain eye contact with the audience. The principle here is no different to speaking with more than one person except now you are speaking with a larger audience
4. breath while speaking so you don't do something silly like hyperventilate or allow your voice to croak/high pitch (if you feel you are going to be anxious then do some calming meditation exercises before the talk - you can google these)
5. drink plenty of water (also a hot coffee calms me down before a talk)



QuantumChemist
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30 Jul 2022, 12:16 pm

I have done many, many poster presentations at research conferences over the years. Most of the time people will be mulling past your poster, read it a bit and then they might ask you about it. At American Chemical Society (ACS) meetings, they usually have refreshments (including alcoholic ones) and food. Many members gravitate towards those locations. If your poster is away from those locations at the conference, you might not have much traffic to deal with.

You can practice a speech about your work, but it is often easier to just be able to explain your work in and out in simple language. If you get too technical, you might get tripped up on words. Be ready to answer questions and you should be fine. I used to incorporate a poster presentation with one of my lab classes to give students experience in dealing with just that situation.

Good luck!



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30 Jul 2022, 12:25 pm

Oh, I thought of another thing to help you with your presentation. If you get asked a question that stumps you, do not say “I do not know.” directly. Use the phrase “I have not thought about it like that. My best guess is...” and fill in the blank with what you do know. Or you could say “I will have to think on it a bit and get back to you”, as it buys you time to process the information in your head. I was taught that for defending my dissertation. Some professors will push people to get them to say “I do not know.” as a means of control. If you can block them, they will stop and move on to target another person.