Preparing for Your Conference: For Presentations in Literature, Language, and the Humanities

I continue to receive feedback regarding my guide for how to draft and submit abstracts for successful placement on a range of conference panels on literature, language, and the humanities. I appreciate the responses, suggestions, and alternative methods for how to revise seminar papers and developing articles to write presentations for conferences. Please keep the suggestions coming!

Speaking with one colleague recently, our discussion turned to practices for how to write the actual conference paper itself, and how to be ready for the conference itself. The briefer advice is, for a 15- to 20-minute talk, to have a hard copy of your presentation ranging from five to ten pages. Skew more to fewer pages if you are giving your first 15-minute presentation and especially if you are prone to improvise. And be cautious of improvisation: this approach is necessary for roundtables but less effective for paper presentations that are timed and must include as much clear information as possible within a set period of time.

Below I offer (and updated here) thorough advice for what to do in the months, weeks, days, and minutes leading up to your conference presentation. This topic is on my mind right now because of a lot of prep time I need (I’m presenting at the MLA again in January, an Edgar Allan Poe conference in February, and the Northeast MLA in April), so I plan to update this post in the future. For now, keep these ideas in mind, especially if you too are heading to MLA this year.

And let me know how you prepare for a conference. Comment below, email me, or post on Twitter.

Thanks to the guidance of Michael Harrawood at the Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University; Hilary Edwards Lithgow at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill; Ayesha Ramachandran at Yale University; and Susan Scheckel at Stony Brook University.