Beating the Competition II: Tips for Presenting at Research Conferences

By Angelica Omaiye, Seattle University

With your beautiful, award winning poster prepared, are you ready for the 2013 ASBMB Annual Meeting? If this is to be your first time attending a science meeting, don’t sweat! I had absolutely no idea what to expect or do when I arrived at my first conference, but once I got adjusted, it was probably one of the most rewarding undergraduate experiences I’ve had. To help you make the most of your time, here are some do and don’ts when explaining your poster at a research conference.

DO: Engage the people who stop by your poster

Ask them if they want you to walk them through your poster. Being awkward and shy, this was pretty scary for me at first, but it really helps build a connection between you and the visitor. Most importantly, it will help them better appreciate your research and its significance. Think of it this way, it’s much less awkward than having them stand silently next to you.

Scenes from the 2011 poster competition

Scenes from the 2011 poster competition in
Washington, D.C.

DO: Engage the people at the posters you stop by

Ask them if they can walk you through their poster. How will this help your presentation, you ask?  If you observe others’ presentation styles, you can adopt or avoid certain mannerisms to improve your presentation. Additionally, this is an active way to learn about other research and potentially build your network.

DON’T: Forget general presentation etiquette

One-on one-discussions with someone who has never seen your work is a little different than the presentations we undergrads normally give during school. While it may feel different, you should still follow the same body language practices. Avoid unnecessary movements with your hands, stand tall and straight, and speak clearly and at an understandable pace, etc.

SMART team students at the 2012 ASBMB Undergraduate Poster Competition

SMART team students at the 2012 ASBMB Undergraduate Poster Competition


DON’T: Forget that not everyone is an expert on your field

I know, it’s easy to get so caught up in your research that you start throwing around technical jargon and assume that everyone else is just as familiar with the intricate details of your field of research. Explaining your work in terms that anyone with a science background can follow is a vital skill and meetings such as these are a great place to practice. If people start looking confused, try defining your terms better or creating analogies for key concepts.

DO: Relax

For most, this is one of those things that are easier said than done.  Whenever you feel yourself getting nervous, just remember: You’ve been working on this project for months, years perhaps. This may be hard to believe, but because of how involved you’ve been with your project, you’re not going to forget anything big. You know this, so don’t get too nervous!

Meeting fellow scientists, sharing my work with students and professionals alike, and learning firsthand about new and important discoveries from the researchers themselves by attending scientific meetings is one the most gratifying and professional experiences I’ve had. With these suggestions in mind, I hope you enjoy your time at the ASBMB Annual Meeting as much as I did!  And be sure to check out the blog post from April 1 on how to prepare your poster.

Students getting their pictures taken with the ASBMB mascot, a "knock-out mouse".

Students getting their pictures taken with the ASBMB mascot, a “knockout mouse”

Still have questions? Or have you attended a past ASBMB Annual Meeting or other research conference? Share your thoughts below!

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