Presenting at a Conference: How-To

If you couldn’t make the workshop on May 9th, don’t worry! I can catch you up to speed via blog so you can still learn from your panel of peers: Katrina Anaya, Stephanie Noss, Claudia Garcia, Emily Wolfkiel, and Nick Dietrich. Unfortunately, Ester Sihite was under the weather so we had to make do without her. She was missed! Additionally, a huge thank you to Mike De Vera who recorded the workshop, edited, and will be making that accessible to students. Look for it!

A panel discussion created a forum to share expertise, offer advice, and ask questions in safe and welcoming space because the thought of presenting definitely seems daunting. First-year student Caitlin Blomquist shared that conference presentation may not have been something she would have considered but that this workshop has her thinking otherwise!

The workshop followed this format:

  1. Introductions: Name & Presentation Experience(s)
  2. Forming a Topic
  3. Writing a Proposal
  4. Presenting at a Conference
  5. Advice, Questions, & Answers

Forming a Topic:

Some panelists were approached and asked to assist faculty, supervisors, or mentors and others just thought about areas of interest and passion. Definitely dialogue to see what topics continue to surface or consider areas that you might find helpful as a practitioner or that you are an expert in. Stephanie  says that a great way to do this is to attend a conference. See what content is being covered and distinguish areas you would like to see.

Writing a Proposal:

Unanimously, our panelists agreed that this part was easy! Phew! Most proposals can be completed online and ask about learning objectives in the form of a brief paragraph or in answer to several questions. Some proposals can be written in narrative form while others require more technicality and in-text citations- this depends on the conference type. Your proposal should align with the theme of the conference both in terms of content and terminology!

Panelists mentioned making outcomes purposeful by  tailoring them to the crowd. Claudia, whose experience includes presenting to high school students, college students, and professionals, stated the importance of remembering that different audiences require different outcomes. A one-size-fits-all approach is not recommended.

Finally, once you submit your proposal, wait. The wait time varies with the size of the conference, but most panelists agreed that you should hear back within 2-5 weeks time. Confirmation should arrive via email. If the response was not what you were hoping for, take heart. Another conference might be a better forum for your topic. Get some feedback from trusted classmates, colleagues, or professors and try, try again.

Presenting at a Conference:


Think back to the Stone Age and inquire about technology! Once your proposal is accepted, you may be requested to submit logistical information or requests. Ask about the set-up of the room, WiFi connections, whether or not a microphone will be on hand, and what technology and support will be available day of. Katrina and Stephanie encountered a snafu when a video refused to cooperate and had to adapt their presentation accordingly. Establishing communication with the tech people a few days prior to the conference will allow them to do what they do best and save you some stress the day of.


Cater to your audience! Using specific terminology will add power and authenticity to a more professional presentation. Use slang to connect with younger audiences and adapt your jokes. Can never remember a punch line? Then increase your energy using volume, body language, and facial expressions to convey your passion. Include small group activities or large group discussions in your presentation and focus on strengthening your facilitation skills.

Individually vs. Collaboratively

Presenting can be done individually or collaboratively and depends on your personal preference. Try presenting on your own and with others before you decide. If collaboration is your style, you might even challenge yourself to work with professionals from different institutions out-of-state.

Advice, Etc:

  • You will be asked to write a description of your workshop to include in the conference brochure and information packet. Make sure that your description captures the essence of your presentation, as well as identifies objectives. Make sure those outcomes are achieved!
  • If you need to revise your description, don’t worry. Revise and resubmit.
  • Money, money, money. At Seattle University, the Graduate Student Council, Integration Formation Fund, and Provost’s Office all offer funding. Make sure you time your request accordingly because if you wait too long, funding may no longer be available.
  • An interesting side note that Claudia raised: the College of Nursing offers funding for their students to pursue professional development opportunities but the College of Education does not. What can we, as students, do to raise this issue and advocate for financial support?
  • Feedback and Assessment is usually provided via questionnaire at most conferences but may be something to ask about just in case. Feel free to create an additional form that focuses specifically on your content to get more accurate and helpful information. An informal way to gauge whether or not people enjoyed the presentation is let them know that you will distribute your slides/handouts if contact information is provided. A line of people queuing up to give you their information or ask questions is always an ego boost!

I hope this information serves you well. I enjoyed this opportunity and look forward to seeing our contributions to theory and practice in upcoming years!


Debbie Park


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