Working the Convention: Giving Presentations & Being an Audience Member

Part 1: Tips for Giving a Great Poster Presentation

By Kaitlyn Werner, Member-at-Large

One of the highlights of conventions, such as SPSP, is the opportunity to network and share what you do with researchers from around the world. While some may approach this opportunity with enthusiasm and excitement, others may be daunted by the task. This appears to be especially true for first-time presenters, from first year graduate students presenting their first poster to senior graduate students giving their first talk. Since the majority of students are in the former camp, these tips will cater mostly to them. For those of you in the latter camp, check out the very helpful links at the bottom of the page.

DO’s and DON’T’s to help bring you on your way to a successful, fun, and fruitful [poster] presentation:

DO ensure that you use easily readable fonts when making a poster. When you have a large crowd gathered around your poster, the poor guy in the back vying for your attention should still be able to read it.

DON’T use crazy color combinations that distract from the content (although it can still look pretty).

DO develop an “elevator pitch.” This should be around a minute, give or take, and detail the background, method, results, and implications of your research.

DON’T hold anyone “hostage.” Most of us convention attendees have been in the situation where we’re walking through the posters, quickly glancing at the titles when suddenly we lock eyes with a presenter who is currently experiencing a lull. We had no intention of stopping because the topic is not suited to our interests, but now we feel obligated to stop and talk to avoid being rude. We’re all scientists who understand how excited we can get about our own work, and so, in most cases, we won’t stop the presenter. As a presenter, try to be aware of the social cues that your audience is giving you and adjust your presentation accordingly.

DO interact with your audience, and remember to keep any conversations off to the side so that other people can still read your poster.

DON’T become too engrossed in one conversation and ignore anyone else waiting to ask you a question. You only have a limited amount of time, so you may want to try and maximize the number of interactions you have. Set up a meeting time later to discuss your work in greater depth with those who are interested.

DO provide a copy of your poster or post an email list. Ensure that you include your contact information.

DON’T forget to follow up on any email requests after the convention. Your audience is counting on you, and if you don’t follow up, you may miss out on future discussions or collaborations.

DO use the poster check at the GSC Lounge in Room 103C! This way you aren’t confined to carrying a large tube or rolled up paper all day. Bonus: once freed from your poster, it will be much easier to sneak out of a symposium as you head to your own session, rather than accidentally hitting someone near you or causing a disruption.

Links for giving a great talk (in no particular order):


Part 2: Tips for Getting the Most Out of Talks and Presentations

By Rebecca Friesdorf, Member-at-Large

Have you ever attended a particularly exciting and informative talk and been completely engaged, only to later find yourself struggling to remember the details and decipher your notes? Here are some research-based tips to avoid this problem:

1. Even though you may be in an environment where it is convenient to takes notes via laptop, consider taking notes by hand instead.  Mueller & Oppenheimer (2014) found that taking notes in longhand is better for remembering conceptual information over the long-term than taking notes on a laptop.

2. Analyze, then summarize.  Note-taking strategies that emphasize understanding and synthesizing before writing down the key points have been found to be most effective (Rosenshine, Meister, & Chapman, 1996).

3. Leave lots of space between key points. Taylor Swift has blank space, and so should you. Blank space will not only make it easier for you to review your notes at a later time, but will also allow you to insert important details or thoughts in an organized and sequential manner during and after the presentation.

4. If you know that you tend to struggle with taking organized notes, you might even consider using the “Cornell notes” method (e.g., Donohoo, 2010; Jacobs, 2008). This note-taking system involves dividing your page into three sections.  First, divide the page vertically into two columns: a narrower column for jotting down questions, and a wider column for writing down the key points of the talk. Then divide the page horizontally, leaving one large section for your main notes and questions, and a small bottom section (about one-eighth or less of the page) for a summary. You can use this small summary section to write down the “gist” of what you learned from the talk.

5. Keep in mind that during and after the presentation, you should try to make connections between the information presented and the knowledge that you already have.  Jot down similarities and differences with concepts you consider related to those in the talk. This will not only help you synthesize the material from the talk with your existing knowledge, it will help you to generate questions as well.

6. Use the same critical thinking skills to evaluate the content of a talk that you use when evaluating a paper.  For example, ask yourself:

a.) Were the constructs operationalized in a way that allowed the manipulation/measures to accurately capture the researchers’ intended meaning?

b.) Are there any alternative explanations for the results obtained? Do the results contradict past research findings? Do the authors acknowledge and discuss this?

c.) What are some possible limitations of the research? How widely applicable would I expect the findings to be, and to what extent would I expect them to generalize to other contexts?

d.) What are the practical and theoretical implications of the research?

7. If questions came to mind during the talk, and remained unanswered by the end, don’t be afraid to ask them! In fact, push yourself to ask questions.  Other audience members may very well be wondering the same things that you are. This is also your chance to make a first connection with the speaker.


Donohoo, J. (2010). Learning how to learn: Cornell notes as an example. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(3), 224-227.

Jacobs, K. (2008). A comparison of two note taking methods in a secondary English classroom. Proceedings of the 4th Annual GRASP Symposium. Wichita, KA: Wichita State University.

Jordan, C. H., & Zanna, M. P. (1999). How to read a journal article in social psychology. In R. F. Baumeister (Ed.), The Self in Social Psychology (pp. 461-470). Philadelphia: Psychology Press.

Mueller, P. A. & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1159–1168. doi: 10.1177/0956797614524581

Rosenshine, B., Meister, C., & Chapman, S. (1996). Teaching students to generate questions: A review of the intervention studies. Review of Educational Research, 66, 181-221.

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