Now that your abstract has been accepted, it’s time to start thinking about how to present your research to a wide audience. No matter what kind of presentation you’ve chosen, you will be expected to be explain and articulate your research project. Being able to effectively communicate your research to a wide audience is one of the main benefits of participating in the Undergraduate Symposium. Below are a few guidelines to help get you started.

Presenters: Check out this list of last-minute details

Ten Tips for Presenting Research

Poster Presentation: Seven Simple Ingredients.

Free Poster Printing on Campus

Ten Tips for Presenting Research

  1. Practice your talk several times to a) check time and b) find awkward phrasing.
  2. Create a take-home message: What is the single most important thing you want your audience to understand, believe, accept, or do after they hear you?
  3. Explain what it is you find most interesting about your research.
  4. Articulate your take-home message, project's objective, significance, and important evidence in two or three sentences.
  5. Organize your material into a story that:
    • Outlines the objective, significance, sources, and methodology of your project.
    • Elaborates in the body what you outlined in the introduction.
    • Concludes by explaining why those findings are significant.
    Note that these are the same basic categories that you probably included in your abstract. Here in the talk, you have room to elaborate on the basic information.
  6. Repeat and Repeat Again: It's okay to be more repetitive than you would be in a written paper: This will help listeners keep track of how all the pieces of your argument fit together.
  7. Simplify your vocabulary and sentence structure. A presentation is not an academic paper. Don’t try to sound smart and scholarly, it will most likely make your talk sound confusing and ineffective. Use everyday language and speak in a casual manner.
  8. Solicit feedback: Set up an appointment with your mentor and another one with the Writing Center to explain your project, practice your presentation, and to hear firsthand what your listeners find particularly intriguing and relevant.
  9. Follow the Gwyneth Paltrow rule: Avoid confusing jargon that muddles or hides your research behind fancy words. I still don’t know what “conscious uncoupling” means!
  10. Use Signposts. Signposts are structural aids that help listening audiences keep track of how all of your points are connected. Here are three common ones:
    • Numerical Signposts Numerical signposts like “First. . . Second. . . Third. ..”
    • Parallel Structure “The main obstacle Manhattan faces is. . . .” “The main obstacle Queens faces is. . . .” “The main obstacle the Bronx faces is. . . .” “The main obstacle Brooklyn faces is. . . .” .
    • Old-to-New Transitions “I’d like to begin by defining exactly what I mean by the term ’documentary film. . . .” “Now that I have explained exactly what a documentary film is, I would like to focus on the particular example of Sherman’s March to explain how this kind of film can have a peculiar psychological effect on its viewers. . . .” “And so we see that documentary films can have a very peculiar effect on their viewers. It is not only documentary films that have this kind of effect, however; all such ’non-fiction‚ talks of information, whether on the big or small screen, can elicit similar effects. This larger-scale effect is relevant to us today because. . . .”

Common Concerns

How Long Should I Talk?

Talk for as long as it takes to get your point across, but not so long that you’ve lost people. Look at your audience and watch for cues. It takes about two minutes to read one typed, double-spaced page. Practice in the mirror. Speak slowly. Try this out on your cat, dog, or roommate. At the end of the talk ask if there are any questions and be prepared to answer them.

What If My Research Is Ongoing?

Scholars often present their work before their projects are complete. You have several options:

  • If you do not have a definitive conclusion, you can discuss the kind of results you hope to obtain and the significance of these results.
  • Keep in mind that your explanation of those results, their significance, is more important than the raw results themselves.
  • Within this framework, some presenters choose to state their results and their significance in their introduction and then show how they arrived at those results in the body of the talk.

Poster preparation: Seven Simple Ingredients

Follow these basic rules for creating a poster that an audience will want to explore.

  1. Know your audience.

    In general, your audience members will fall into one of two groups:

    • People who know and understand your topic. Some people will be familiar with the basic concepts you’re working with, but don’t assume that they are familiar with all of the technical details.
    • People who don’t know anything about your topic. This audience gives you an opportunity to teach them about the interesting information you’ve been learning and to convince them that the kind of work you are is important and has relevance.
  2. Determine your take-home message.
    • What is the single most important thing you want your audience to understand, believe, accept, or do after they see your poster?
    • Include a succinct statement of your project’s main argument, and the evidence that supports that argument.
    • Choose a few key pieces of evidence that most clearly illustrate your take-home message.
    • Use visuals to distill and communicate your take-home message quickly and easily.
  3. The how and why

    Your poster should answer the following questions:

    1. How did you conduct your research?
    2. What real-world problems or questions prompted you to undertake this project?
    3. What does this project means for you or for others?
    4. How do your findings impact scholars in your field and members of the broader intellectual community?

  4. Keep the information minimal and scannable.
    Viewers will spend just a few seconds scanning your poster, deciding if they want to read or learn more. Think of your own favorite poster: The visuals draw you in, the headline captures your attention, and additional text elaborates.
    • Long, complex sentences are difficult for viewers to absorb.
    • Use simple terms; avoid jargon
    • Use interesting visuals, bold headings, and bulleted or numbered lists.
    • Don’t write paragraphs of information. Make it scannable!
    • Be concise, precise, and straightforward.
  5. Be ready to talk about your project.
    • What you choose to say about your project is just as important as your poster.
    • Be ready to answer questions and provide details about your project.
    • Make sure you review the details of your project that were too small to include in the poster. You’ll want to expound on that information in your conversations with viewers.
    • Don’t read from your poster. Use the poster as a visual aid only, and know your material well.
  6. Let viewers digest your poster before you engage with them.
    • Don’t rush your viewers. Let them acquaint themselves with your project, and then offer to guide them through the poster.
    • Greet viewers with a "hello” and a “thanks” for stopping.
    • “Would you like a guided tour of my project?" This greeting usually works better than asking "Do you have any questions?" because after only a few moments, viewers might not have had time to come up with questions.
  7. Practice talking through your poster.
    • Show your poster to friends, classmates, and your mentor ahead of time to get a feel for how viewers might respond.
    • Prepare a five-minute overview of the project, walking viewers through the poster, drawing their attention to the most critical points and filling in interesting details as needed.
    • Make note of the kinds of questions you’re asked, and be ready to answer them.

Free Poster Printing on Campus

College Library generously prints student posters for the Undergraduate Symposium at no cost to presenters. The cost to College Library is about $50 per poster. Please be responsible for your poster, and value the time and effort of those helping make the Symposium a success.

There are other locations on campus that can print posters, including DoIT, other libraries, and some departments. These units may have limitations on who can print and will charge a fee. Presenters who print their posters at locations other than College Library will assume responsibility for all printing costs.

DesignLab consultants can help you design your poster and fine-tune your presentation. Make an appointment or just drop-in: They are located in 2250 College Library.

Guidelines for poster printing at College Library

  1. The poster should be 43” wide by 36” high.
  2. Poster and image resolution should be 150–200 dpi.
  3. Poster files should submitted as a TIF.
  4. Participants can start submitting their posters for printing on Monday, March 26, 2017. The deadline for submitting your poster to be printed is midnight, Sunday, April 9, 2017.
  5. Submit poster files to the College Library InfoLab Help Desk (second floor of Helen C. White Hall). The filename should include the student’s name and “US”, ie: “StudentName_US.tif”. It may take a few days for your poster to be printed and ready for you to pick up. Do not wait until the last day to turn in your poster! The earlier you get it in, the sooner you will get it back and can check for errors.
  6. College Library will reprint your poster for free if there are errors caused by their equipment or staff oversight. Other errors will be charged to the student: $4 per square foot, for reprints. Please double-check your file before submitting it for printing.
  7. Indicate when dropping off your poster if you prefer satin or glossy paper (e.g. “StudentName_US_satin.tif”).
  8. For more information contact Trish Iaccarino, College Library Computer and Media Center, Room 2250 Helen C. White Hall, 600 North Park Street, 265-2017.