1. Try not to worry about nervousness. Audiences sympathize with nervous speakers; they are less accommodating when speakers are unprepared. Even though you may not be able to control your speech anxiety, you can control your preparation. Preparation helps us feel less nervous.
2. Do what you do best. If you are a good reader, read sections of your paper. If you speak well extemporaneously, do that. As you gain more experience, make it a goal to rely less and less on the written word.
3. Plan your presentation. The old adage—tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them—is a useful structure.
4. Appeal to your audience as listeners, not readers. Typically, a 15-20 minute presentation should have no more than 3-5 main points (in the “tell them” section). Be sure they are clear and well-supported, as listeners cannot go back and examine them.
5. Make sure the bulk of your presentation constitutes your work. Don’t, for example, read a literature review to your audience; they can ask for a copy of your paper and/or research the topic on their own. Your paper is unique, and people assembled to hear your insights.
6. Speak in language that is comfortable to you. You need not express yourself in complex jargon. Since MPCA/MACA is an interdisciplinary organization, some members of your audience may not be familiar with the terminology of a particular field or sub-field. Use language that addresses everyone.
7. Practice your presentation in order to master any necessary vocabulary and proper names. Audiences respect a speaker who shows a command of her/his material. Good communicators endeavor to get their point(s) across, not to confuse with convoluted language in order to “look smart.”
8. Limit your use of audio-visuals. Since the bulk of your time should be spent discussing your observations and insights, restrict aural or visual aids to brief clips only. Plan in advance when they will be used, and be sure to have them cued and ready to go. If possible, test the equipment in your meeting room before the panel begins. Have a backup plan in case equipment is absent or doesn’t work.
9. As you end your remarks, answer the immortal question, “So what?” Discuss the significance of your work. Tell your audience why what you’ve learned is important to your particular subject matter, and therefore is of value to them.