First Time Presenting at a Conference

First time presenting at a conference

Hello!

This past week I had a first-time presenting experience that I wanted to share with you.

At the beginning of my RAship I was reaching out to various agriculture and forestry organization trying to get the Southeast Climate Hub to some outreach events. I ended up getting into contact with the Executive Coordinator of the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Districts (if you ever get the chance to work with her, she is an absolutely incredible human). She asked if the Hub could provide a speaker to their annual meeting on December 4th, 2023. As a new intern, I did not expect that I would be the one giving this presentation, however, when I brought this up to my supervisor, he asked if I wanted to give the talk. I was nervous and wanted to say no- it may be ironic that a communications and outreach RA is not a fan of public speaking, but that is my case. I do enjoy talking and working with people, but on a smaller scale- but I figured that this internship was all about my professional growth, so I told my supervisor I would do it.

Jump to many busy months later, it is the middle of November and I remember that I had to give this presentation in less than three weeks. So, I start pulling together some information from past presentations the Hub has given and investigating some climate and weather trends in Virginia (the topic of the presentation was “Increased Resilience to Disturbance on Agricultural Lands: A Presentation of Southeast Climate Hub Tools and Resources”).

I pulled the presentation together and started practicing- one hour a day I told myself. This of course did not happen as my days often became filled up and my motivation to practice this 30-minute presentation after work hours was often lost to more interesting things like playing soccer and reading. However, I practiced when I was able (and willing to).

Many of the graphs in my presentation were given to me through past Hub presentations, and I did not feel I had a full understanding of them, but I tried my best to interpret and explain them. Three days before I had to present at the VASWCD conference, I presented to my supervisor and Hub coworkers. I am so glad I did this! Tip for anyone who has to present anything: PRESENT TO YOUR COWORKERS!! They gave me so much helpful feedback and I came out of that meeting with a significantly better understanding of the graphs and data in my PowerPoint. I completely reframed my presentation after this, staying up until 1:00 a.m. to rewrite and practice.

In the two days before the conference, I practiced several times- specifically in the morning and at night because I learned in school that memorization works best when done right when you wake up and right before you go to bed (another fun tip).

By Monday December 4th, I was ready. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to drive to Virginia. I practiced once more on the drive over. I arrived at 9:30 a.m. to set up my table- my talk wasn’t until 3:00 p.m.; until then, I networked with the other groups there and spoke to landowners and stakeholders who came up to my booth, interested in Hub resources.

Around 2:00 p.m. I ventured into the room I was to present in. I wanted to get a feel for the space. It was empty, so I stood up on the podium where I would be giving the talk, and I stared out into the room, pretending it was full of people. I felt kind of silly doing this and people watched as they passed by the open door, but I know doing this helped me remain calm during the actual presentation because I was familiar with the room and my surroundings (I highly recommend doing this if you can).

The presentation went well. I did talk a bit fast due to nerves, but other than that, it went without a hitch. I was nervous about answering questions at the end, but that went well too. There was only one question I could not answer, but that was because it was not related to anything that the Hub had done in the past- to my knowledge at least.

Soooo if you are giving a presentation soon, to an audience of any scope or size I highly recommend doing these things:

  • Practice! In front of a mirror helps a lot
  • Get feedback on your presentation and speaking habits
  • Breathe! Your audience is made up of people- just people
  • Make sure you understand what you are presenting
  • Familiarize yourself with the space in which you are presenting in prior to your presentation

That may have been a long-winded explanation of a small event, but this was a large feat and a big first for me. I know many RA’s are/will have to give presentations in the future, so I just wanted to share some points I found helpful. Best of luck to anyone out there preparing to give a presentation. You got this!

 

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