Making the Most of your Conference Presentation

Recently, blog editor Ellie King presented her research to a virtual conference of museum professionals. Hear her reflections on how it went, and her tips on making the most of the opportunity.

I like virtual conferences. Instead of having a room full of faces stare at me whilst I do my best to remember all the points I need to make, presenting online means it’s really just you and your computer screen, with your presentation and notes in front of you, ready to be read and not forgotten. Yes, presenting into the abyss does mean you can’t see how bored everyone may look in the audience, but that might be a good thing.

Anyway, I presented at a conference in December, and it was a biggie for me because it was the first time I had presented my research to people in the sector that had no stake in my work – they weren’t supervisors, people from my institution, or people who I was presenting evaluation results of their exhibits to. I was going in essentially blind to how people would receive my work. And this was an important consideration to me, because my research is about developing new methods and ways of working for the museum sector. So, if nobody likes it, my career plan of using these methods in a consultancy are effectively screwed. No pressure Ellie.

A screenshot of a PowerPoint presentation with a small image of a red-haired white woman talking on the left hand side. The text reads: 'Museum Exhibition User Experience: Collecting Meaningful Evaluation Data of Visitor Experience. Ellie King, Doctoral Researcher, OUMNH, University of Warwick. @ellietheking'
Image Credit: Museum Computer Group.

But it went well! I got over my points, the comments in the chat were good, and people were engaged in asking me questions and giving me feedback. And having thought about this for the last couple of weeks, it made me realise that what we’re really judging our presenting success by is not by how well we presented, but how well other people responded to it. And this is even more important for academic success and building your network.

So, is a conference presentation only about your actual presentation? No. In being given the opportunity to share your research with (probably only a very small portion of) the world, it’s important to make the most of it. So, here are my top tips:

Tell people you’re doing the presentation and what you’re going to be talking about. This can be on social media, but often online conferences have accompanying websites with speaker details. Make sure yours is up to date with your relevant contact details, information, and a photo.

Include your details in your presentation of where people can find out more

This can be your email address, LinkedIn or Twitter profile, or of you have a paper on the topic already, a link to this. It’s also good to say something like ‘this is only a snippet of my research, so do get in touch if you’re interested in hearing more.’

Tweet and engage with audiences

If attendees have commented on your presentation in the conference chat, like and respond to them! If people have tweeted about it, retweet and reply to them. A simple thank you will suffice if there’s not much else to say. And don’t forget to comment and retweet any tweets from the official conference page about you.

Capitalise on questions and engagement

Obviously, this depends on people reaching out to you, but if they do it’s important to follow up on things. If people have asked a question, why not open a private chat with them to follow it up and ask if they have anything else to ask. If people have approached you, make sure you get their email and perhaps arrange a further discussion with them.

“Having thought about this for the last couple of weeks, it made me realise that what we’re really judging our presenting success by is not by how well we presented, but how well other people responded to it.”

Conferences are really important, and it’s great to have the opportunity to share your work with others. But it’s what you do after this sharing that’s the important bit. It’s a perfect way to build meaningful connections with people beyond the generic ‘I have followed you because I know you’re important in my field’ approach, and an even more perfect way to get your name out there and, crucially, get people to remember you.

If you want to read more about the world of academic conferences, take a look at Chengcheng Kang’s thoughts or our top tips on writing academic bios for conferences.

What are your experiences of presenting at conferences? Do you have any top tips for our fellow readers? Let us know in the comments below, tweet us @ResearchEx or email us at

Ellie King is a third year PhD student in Warwick Manufacturing Group. She has been at Warwick since 2014 in the History department, and has recently moved faculties to research applying user experience to the museum sector. Ellie is partnered with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here, or follow her on Twitter @ellietheking

Header Image: 269140, Pixabay.

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