By Tabitha Hartropp
First things first: your presentation should be between 12-15 minutes. It can be shorter, but please do not go over time, as a courtesy to the other people on your panel.
The goal of the presentation is to showcase the content of your essay to a group of your peers, so that they may gain knowledge and raise critical questions about your topic, in order to further both groups’ understanding. This is also your chance to defend your idea a second time, as the vetting committee will be circulating at the conference on the lookout for quality content for the publication.
The presentation also opens the paper up to a large group of people who may or may not be familiar with the topic, to promote greater learning and analysis. You WANT people to ask questions – that’s how we learn.
What to Present
When preparing to present, remember that your audience is not reading the essay, and therefore able to process it in their own time. Your audience is listening and does not have the luxury of re-reading complex passages. Additionally, your audience may not be familiar with the source text. Your job is not to be smart: it is to be kind. Summarise your source text before beginning, and review quickly any important theories. When defending an important idea, have it written on a slide, so that the more visual people in the room have a touchstone; same goes for your thesis and any important quotations. If you want to be super nice, you will state a point, defend the point, and then state the point again.
PowerPoint is your friend here. It will help keep you on track and will help the audience know what to focus on. Film presentations can throw up some screenshots; books can refer to thematic images. Powerpoint can also be used to refer to points beyond your argument – ways to push the argument further (a presentation on feminism in Goblin Market could have a slide wondering about the portrayals of monstrous masculinity for example).
One other tip: have some questions ready. At the end of the panel, the floor opens to audience questions. This is an exciting time for discussion but usually starts with silence, as the audience has just absorbed so many ideas. Help them out – raise a few questions yourself. You can also comment on your own ideas here, such as pointing out another angle.
Of course, you do not have to do any of these things. These are merely suggestions, gleaned from sitting in QUEUC presentations for two years. If you do not think you need a PowerPoint, then don’t make one. You need to be comfortable in front of your peers, so you do you.
One thing I will ask: do not read your paper. I have been to QUEUC as a delegate, and presentations, where the paper is simply read, are difficult to follow. Not because the ideas are not good, or the person is not articulate. But because the presenter was a little bit nervous, or forgot people were trying to listen, the presenter ends up speed-reading out loud, and understanding the ideas is like trying to watch a movie in fast-forward. You can read your paper – just make it a dramatic monologue, and not a tongue twisting exercise.
Enjoy your preparations! I hope I didn’t make it sound too scary. It’s fun I promise