Presenter Tips and Needs


It is highly recommended that presenters bring their visual presentations on a jump drive. However, it is recognized that some presenters will want to use their own laptop for video/audio inclusion. Presenters using their own computers are to bring their own adaptors as well. The conference cannot assure hook up for personal computers.

Each breakout room will have a data projector plugged into a Mac laptop computer. Presenters will be responsible for setting up their own jump drive into provided laptop computers. Break out rooms are supplied with wireless access to the Internet.

Some technical support will be provided.

Contact for specify requests Give the specifics of what you need, and if you need audio speakers, etc.


Be Brief, Be Witty, Be Seated

by Mary Hunt
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), Silver Spring, MD

The following is a set of presentation tips the Women and Religion Section has circulated to its presenters.

1. Be Brief. It takes about 20 minutes to read 10-12 double spaced pages. Allow a little time for introductory remarks and to repeat for emphasis what you really want to get across. Err on the side of too little material rather than too much. Your audience will thank you. Studies show that the average attention span for spoken words is slightly over 10 seconds. A few good ideas with a clear introduction and concise conclusion will stay with your listeners longer than a convoluted argument. Allow time for questions as it is another opportunity, usually more listener friendly than being read to, to communicate your ideas.

2. Be Witty. Every religious studies scholar is not Whoopie Goldberg or Lily Tomlin, but it is important to think of an academic audience as people first and foremost. A touch of humor is always appreciated. It keeps the audience alert. Think of the presentation as needing the clarity of a picture, the precision of an article, the flow of a conversation and the satisfaction of a good meal. Humor adds levity and makes your remarks memorable. Anecdotes and examples will give you a chance to lighten what might otherwise be a deadly dull performance.

3. Be Seated. Honor the time constraints because they assure that everyone will have an equal opportunity to speak. It is boorish not to, a sure sign of inexperience. Practice speakers finish up with a bang on or a little ahead of the time. Novices start out strong but end up fumbling because they try to speed read a 30-page paper in twenty minutes. When they realize that their time is rapidly coming to a close they often exclaim, “Oh, heavens, I am just going to skip the next ten pages and read you the conclusion,” or desperate words to that effect as if the content they are leaving aside has no bearing on the argument. To avoid this faux pas, keep your presentation to the time allowed. But if you do not manage that:

* acknowledge the time keeper with a nod so as not to distract your audience

* summarize your remaining material without reference to the time problem

* move smoothly to your conclusion like a practiced speaker and nobody will be any the wiser…except you, the next time.

Delivering a paper is learned behavior. It is like preaching a sermon, teaching a class or giving a lecture anywhere else. You can get it right with practice. Bad things can happen-the microphone can go dead, your PowerPoint® presentation can freeze, you might even have an attack of nerves that will cause you enormous stress. But for the most part it will be a good, even an enjoyable experience. You can enhance it by offering a warm thank you to your introducer and by thanking your audience at the end, Miss Manners would suggest. A quick e-mail thank you to the presider and/or the person who chairs the section is a nicety that increases graciousness among us.

How to Present a Professional Paper at the Digital Religion Conference
(These guidelines are from the AAR conference)

Julie J. Kilmer
Chicago Theological Seminary

With hopeful confidence and reasonable fear students regularly present professional papers at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting. While Jerry Seinfeld claims, “Studies show that fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of dying,” I suggest that by following a few basic principles of public speaking, the experience of presenting a paper at the Annual Meeting can be rewarding and fun! In preparing to present a paper at the Annual Meeting it is important to consider the following areas: content, preparation, presentation, the question and answer period, and the final evaluation of the experience.


The key to any good presentation is its content. Make sure you have something new and interesting to add to the conversation in your field. Here, colleagues and friends can offer important critique that can assist one in developing ideas that further the academic discussion in your area of interest. Whatever you include in your paper presentation must support your central argument without inviting the listeners to join you on a tangential trail of irrelevant information. Communicate your arguments and ideas clearly and concisely.


Remember, this is an oral presentation, not a written one. Thus, it is necessary to make changes and alterations within your paper. Remove technical jargon and complicated details. Add structure to the paper by repeating your thesis statement at the beginning and end of the paper. Re-emphasize important points as necessary. You might consider preparing two versions of your paper. The first is yours to read in the actual presentation and utilizes large fonts, boldfaced type, red slashes at the end of sentences reminding you to pause, etc. However, have a second version of your paper available to hand out to interested parties after the presentation. Don’t forget to include your contact information on each copy. Practice presenting your paper in front of friends and colleagues. This will reduce anxiety and provide valuable feedback. Time your presentation. While 20-30 minutes may seem like a long period of time, it is not. Within this time period you cannot present your entire dissertation. However, you can focus on one theme or chapter of your work. If you are unsure about the time limit for your presentation, it is acceptable to contact the person presiding for your session to acquire this information.


Although writing and public speaking are very different arts, it has become acceptable to treat public speaking as a mere reading of a written text. However, even though the written word is dominant in the academy, the presentation of a paper can be professional and interesting to both the speaker and members of the audience. Speaking in a soft monotone, in long, complex, jargon-filled sentences as you read your paper will not lead to success. Instead, use the microphone – even if you do not think it necessary. In addition, for many it is helpful to pause and take a deep breath before speaking the first sentence. This enables any speaker to claim the space at the podium as one’s own. Taking a deep breath also forces one to relax even under the most stressful situations. Speak loudly, clearly, and confidently. Smile often (even if you don’t feel like smiling). Remember, your ideas are valuable. The audience members are there because they found the topic and abstract of your paper interesting. The presentation of your paper also offers an opportunity to network with others in your field. Talk with the other presenters both before and after the session. It is likely you will have similar interests. This enables others in your field to become acquainted with you and your academic work.

The Question and Answer Period

For some, this is the most dreaded of times and the worst of times. What if someone asks a question I don’t know how to answer? Your audience will expect you to have mastered the material you are referencing, so do your homework. Make sure you have reviewed the relevant literature in the field. You are likely able to anticipate most of the questions that others will ask. Prepare answers in advance of your presentation. Don’t forget that you are the expert in this field. If someone asks a question that you really cannot respond to with integrity, consider turning to others on the panel or in the audience for additional comments on the topic.

Evaluation of the Experience

We learn from our experiences. Thus, within a week of your presentation at the Annual Meeting, evaluate your performance. Did you enjoy your experience? What did you do well? What did you learn? Did others model successful ways to present a paper? If so, identify a few of the particular techniques that might work for you in the future. And finally, make a few notes for yourself to review the next time you present a paper at the Annual Meeting.

Of course, none of the above principles and suggestions can substitute for excellent content. Yet, preparation, practice, good time-management, and a professional presentation ensure a positive experience in the presentation of a paper. And with the support of friends and colleagues, one can be confident and successful every time there is an opportunity to present at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: MARLENE « Resume Rebel Videoblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: