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Student Connections

Standing Room Only: Creating Compelling Student-Led Paper and Mini-Skills Research Presentations

By Emily Srisarajivakul, Nina E. Ventresco & Katherine E. McLendon

p. 35

Volume 47 Issue 1

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By Emily Srisarajivakul, Nina E. Ventresco & Katherine E. McLendon

After working tirelessly on your proposal, you have found out that your presentation for the NASP annual convention has been accepted. Now what? You might feel a wave of excitement and accomplishment, which may then suddenly morph into intense and unrelenting feelings of anxiety and panic. With proper preparation, effective time management, and plenty of practice, feelings of nervous anticipation and dread can be replaced with feelings of confidence and eager expectation.

September: 5 Months Out

By the time you find out that your proposal has been accepted, you should have completed your preliminary literature review, data collection, and analyses. If you have not completed these tasks, check out your school's library resources both online and in person, get that Internal Review Board proposal approved, and dust off your statistics textbooks. If you are collaborating with other students or professors, this would be a good time to delegate tasks and make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and the accompanying deadlines.

October: 4 Months Out

Four months before the presentation date, your literature reviews and data collection should be completed. Make an outline of your PowerPoint presentation with a traditional bulleted outline or consider printing a series of blank slides and using them to plan your presentation. Outlines should include your title; the learning objectives that you specified in your initial proposal; a brief abstract of your research; and the basic elements of a research paper, including the introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections. It might also be helpful to identify which parts you are interested in presenting and allowing your colleagues the same opportunity. Remember not to spend too long on personal introductions and keep the introduction section or literature review brief. Chances are, people are most interested in your methodology, results, and discussion, so devote most of your time to these sections.

For mini-skills presentations, brainstorm ideas for attention-sustaining activities and where you might place them within your presentation. When you are brainstorming activities, make sure they are meaningful and will add more to your presentation. Explicitly link the activity to the purpose of the presentation to ensure cohesion.

It is ideal to have activities that will allow your audience members to go back to their places of work or graduate programs with something tangible, like a resource list or a group-generated list of strategies. If you need additional ideas, tap your colleagues and professors for activity or handout recommendations. You might also turn to the Graduate Student Community on the NASP website for suggestions, as other students are likely in the same stage of their preparation.

December: 2 Months Out

Before heading out of town or otherwise turning off your brain over winter break, you should have a draft of your presentation finished. Your copresenters should know what they will be covering, and you should all give each other feedback on your respective sections. It would be beneficial to write talking points in the notes section of your PowerPoint presentation for items you do not want to include in the presentation slides. Then, adjust your printer settings to print the presentation slides and notes section and use your notes as a reference while you practice. You could also write key ideas on index cards for reminders or references. If you need to type out what you plan to say word-for-word at this stage, that may be beneficial. However, take care to practice your parts without reading directly from the presentation as the convention gets closer. Remember: in general, the less text on the slide, the better. This will allow you to make more of a connection with your audience, as reading text directly off the slides tends to alienate the presenter and disengage the audience.

Importantly, this is a great time to upload any handouts you may have on the NASP convention website. It can be frustrating to go to a session where the presenters promise the handouts are on the website but the handouts are not there. Having your handouts on the website early ensures that even if your handouts are not in the final draft form, you will at least have something there on the day of the presentation.

For mini-skills presentations, you should also have your materials and activities prepared in advance. Make a checklist of the items you need and make sure you have the items the day before you are scheduled to present, especially if different group members are responsible for bringing different items. If you realize you forgot to bring needed materials to the convention, there still may be time to run to the store if you review your checklist ahead of time.

January: 1 Month Out

Because you will be getting acclimated to a new semester of courses and applied fieldwork in January, you may have a low tolerance for stress. At this point, it is a good idea to start practicing what you are going to say. Talk to your peers, your significant other, your mom, your dad, yourself, or your dog; it all helps! Since time may be limited, use idle time to practice. For instance, turn off the radio and practice your presentation in the car during your commute! Consider taping yourself using an audio recorder application on your phone. If you are satisfied with what you said, then you can listen to your recording when you want to rest your vocal chords. Listening to your practice presentation may help identify sections that are unclear or sections that could be improved upon. If you wrote a script during your December preparations, compare your audio recording to your script. You do not need to repeat your script word-for-word; just make sure you address the key points in ways that are consistent with your notes and the remainder of the presentation.

In addition to refining the semantics, syntax, and content of your presentation, pay attention to the time limit while you are practicing. Don't forget to leave time for questions throughout or at the end of the presentation, depending on your preference. Make sure your copresenters are well prepared, too, and if you need feedback, go to your advisor or other professors.

Early February: 2 Weeks Out

Now it's crunch time! Make sure you have all your materials and handouts ready. Keep practicing and have fundamental presentation skills in mind. It would also be beneficial to do full run-throughs of your presentation to your professors and colleagues to get final rounds of feedback. Though this may be uncomfortable, have your professors and colleagues ask you difficult questions about your research, as this may very well happen to you at the convention. Doing this preparation work 2 weeks ahead of time will allow you to implement the changes your professors and colleagues suggest and feel more prepared. In addition to limiting directly reading from your slides, always keep your face forward and towards the audience to project your voice. Presenting in this position will also allow you to gauge the engagement of your audience members. If audience members look like they are losing interest, it may be a hint for you to do something interactive to reengage them.

The Week of Nasp

Keep practicing your presentation! Find quiet spaces to practice in the convention hotel, in your room, or at a nearby cafe. Make sure you have your PowerPoint and other materials on a thumb drive because there is no Internet in the rooms at the convention center. Visit your assigned room before presentation day if possible so that you know where to go. On the day of your presentation, set your phone alarm 20 minutes before your presentation begins, and get to your room early. Tell everyone you know to come to your presentation, wear professional attire, and be photo-ready! You're going to be great! n

NASP Member Resources

National Association of School Psychologists. (n.d.). Tips for writing attention grabbing session descriptions and effective learner objectives. Retrieved from http://www.nasponline.org/assets/documents/Professional Development/Annual Convention/CFPP/Tips_for_Writing_Attention_Grabbing_Session_Descriptions_and_Effective_Learner_Objectives.pdf

Minke, K. & Ratterree, S. (n.d.). Submitting a successful NASP convention presentation proposal. Retrieved from https://www.nasponline.org/x34307.xml


Emily N. Srisarajivakul is a doctoral student in the school psychology program at Georgia State University and currently serves as the local student cocoordinator for the NASP Convention Planning Committee. Nina E. Ventresco is a doctoral student in the school psychology program at Lehigh University and serves on the NASP Graduate Student Committee. Katherine E. McLendon is in the school psychology program at Georgia State University and serves as cochair and publications coordinator on the NASP Graduate Student Committee