When “Wee” Present

Written by: Emily Weigel

Primary Source:   Choice Words with Choosy_Female

It’s enough to prepare your own presentation for conferences, but it’s another to help students prepare. In addition to the normal mechanics of what a presentation should look/sound like, there are also conference jitters. This can affect how strongly students ‘engage’ and what they take away from the conference experience.

To help your students have a great conference, here’s a list of things that seem to help:

  1. Dress: Impart your students with knowledge of what people typically wear at conferences. For ecology/evolution, it is not abnormal to see jeans and t-shirts. Nonetheless, your students may want to dress a step or two up from that; in any case, keep them from awkwardly standing out in a 3-piece suit… unless that’s their thing.
  2. Practice: Try to get the presentation done in enough time to do a dry-run before you go. This may not always happen, but it’s good to get some practice in and improve based on friendly feedback in-house.
  3. Know some names: If they’re reading papers in classes/for research, have them look up a few names in the conference directory ahead of time. This will help them to feel like they already know some people before they arrive, and give them something to talk about should they meet people. This is also true for departments/schools they are targeting- know who you might run into.
  4. Introduce them to people: If your student is interested in a particular line of work, or if they happen to walk up while you are talking to someone, introduce them. If they’re looking at a particular program for their next steps, see if you can help set up a 1-on-1 with them and someone you know there.
  5. (But…) Leave them alone: Let them figure out what they want to do and which talks they want to explore. Venues are generally pretty safe, and they *are* adults. Ask them what they learned from going to other talks, and tell them to be on the look-out for things you might be able to bring back to your lab.

Have any other tips? Append them here!

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Emily Weigel
Emily Weigel (@Choosy_Female) is Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Zoology and in the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior Program at Michigan State University. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a focus on interdisciplinary research from the Georgia Institute of Technology. At MSU, Weigel conducts research in the lab of Dr. Jenny Boughman and is affiliated with the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. Her dissertation research focuses on how female choice and investment interact with male mating strategies. Additionally, Weigel’s education research asks how and why a background in genetics affects student performance in evolutionary biology. When not researching, Weigel enjoys playing soccer, surfing Netflix, and promoting STEM in the community.
Emily Weigel

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