Academic Symposium FAQ and sign-up

Symposium Home Page

How do I sign up?

Complete this short application before March 5, 2020.  If you need to contact us, please email

What types of presentations, posters, and creative works are accepted?

Typically, you will be presenting on something that you have researched, whether that be an organ of the body or Bach’s use of a pipe organ! In other words, a wide range of topics are accepted, but they should be accompanied by some sort of artifact (most of the time in the form of a paper for a class or special project, such as Maple Scholars). And no, it does NOT have to be completely done (see more below).

See the archives of past symposiums

What is it like?

In many ways, the academic symposium is similar to any sort of conference, sort of like TED talks only more academic.

Presenters: You as presenter will talk about your research in front of a small audience between 15-20 people. Depending on the size of your project, you will be presenting between 10-15 minutes. There will also be a question and answer period (5 minutes max) AFTER your presentation. Most presenters will have, a presentation aid (such as Power Point or Google Slides). Prior to the symposium, you will be assigned to a presentation session along with with four or five other presenters. When it is your turn, your session leader will introduce you. Your session leader will also give you time warnings during your presentation to make sure that you do NOT go over your time. Then, you will enter into a question and answer period led by the session leader. Finally, you will return to the audience and listen to the rest of the presentations in your session. Each session lasts around an hour.
Posters: If you choose to submit a poster (which you can do as a stand alone or in addition to a presentation or creative work), you should plan to be present with your poster for about an hour. You will be notified when you are expected to be present.

Use the following procedure to submit your poster:
1. Click here for a template to use. You can modify it in any way except changing the height and width.
2. Save your work as a PDF.
3. Login here with your GC username and password to make an account. And then click here to submit your work. In the comment field please type “symposium”.  You will not be charged for printing.

Creative Works: The medium of your creative work will dictate which type presentation will work for you. A painting, might work better as a sort of poster session whereas a dramatic work will work better as a presentation. We will be in touch with what we think will work.

Everything presented at the Academic Symposium will be critically reviewed. We will also provide you feedback. So BE PREPARED to not only to share your work but to defend it as well!

Can faculty sign up for a student?

Yes and no. If you have a student whom you think should present, then please first tell the student directly. If you feel the student needs another nudge, then contact us, and we will see what we can do on our end.

Does my artifact (project, paper, etc …) have to be completed?

NO! But you should have enough of it completed that you can write a coherent abstract (see below).  Also, we ask that you have conducted at least some sort of research that you can document.

Do I have to stay the whole time?

No. BUT try to stay for your entire session (about an hour). Never leave in the middle of someone’s presentation! You can inadvertently undermine their self-confidence.  Do not come just to give your own paper. In order to deserve an audience, you should be an audience member.

How do I write an abstract?

Here is a concise guide on how to write an abstract.  (from Eastern Washington University)

For examples, look in the archives. (Note: you may have to look at older programs (2016 or earlier).

Is there a dress code?

No. But dress in a way that says that you take what you are doing seriously. We encourage students to dress according to their discipline or professional standards.  See more in the presentation tips below.

Do I get Convo Credit for attending or presenting?

You bet! We view this event as a classic example of what a liberal arts education is all about. Just come to the circulation desk on the day of the symposium and swipe your ID for the credit.

Do you have any presentation tips for me?

From Dr. Jo-Ann Brant (emeritus Academic Dean, emeritus Bible and Religion Professor, and  emeritus Academic Symposium director)

General Principle: You do not want anything to distract your audience. You want their attention to be upon what you are presenting.


Presentation tip: What to wear

Dress in a way that says that you take what you are doing seriously. We encourage students to dress according to their discipline or professional standards.

Men: At my society meetings, men tend to wear jackets and ties.  I suggest that you wear a long sleeve, solid colored, button down shirt that has a collar and then decide whether a tie and jacket would help you feel more confident or uncomfortable. Do not wear anything with writing on it.

Women:  Don’t wear print fabrics or items that need to be fussed with or rearranged. This is also very good advice for interviews.  If you doubt me, check out the studies on the effects of appearance upon hiring. If you tend to move your head a lot, avoid dangling earrings.


Presentation tip: How to Stand

Avoid “storking” (standing on one leg).  People tend to do this when they are nervous. I have seen people stork and then wrap themselves around the podium in order to find stability. Plant both feet firmly on the ground.  This will help you feel confident and comfortable, and your audience will not be distracted by your swaying.


Presentation tip: How to prepare the physical paper  

You want to keep noise and shuffling of paper to a minimum.

Don’t staple the paper so that you don’t have to make as large movements to flip pages.  Number the pages in case they get out of order.

Insert cues for when you need to change a slide if you are using powerpoint. It is very easy to get ahead of your powerpoint.

If you are not reading from a paper and are relying on your power point, print out a copy with 6-9 slides per page so that you can see ahead.  Consider putting your notes below each slide so that you are not flipping back and forth between two documents.

Indicate in your notes or on your paper where you anticipate a long pause and write down“Take a drink now!”  just in case you get dry mouth.  You will find that it is less disruptive than if you have to take a drink in the middle of a paragraph. You will also prevent yourself from reflexively saying, “Excuse me.”

Consider giving a copy to your session chair / leader, so he or she can anticipate if you are going over time.


Presentation tip: Adapting the Paper for Presentation

Rework the introduction so that you explain the context in which you did the work to a broader audience.

If your paper is longer than you can present in 13 minutes, streamline the data or evidence to the most interesting and tell your audience that you are just including a few examples and that if they wish you will share all the data with them later.

If you have to skip over a few steps, tell your audience you are skipping over steps in the interest of time.  Let them know you know what you are doing.

A handout can be very helpful in many ways:

  • If you are discussing a quotation put it on the handout. People can then follow your argument and you can save time by not reading longer quotations.
  • If you are discussing data, they can look at it without your having to describe all of it.
  • If you have a diagram or conceptual map that is key to your argument, they can have it in front of them and do not have to remember an earlier slide.
  • If you have new concepts or technical vocabulary, they can glance at the definition rather than having to remember it.
  • If you are relying on other scholars’ works, you can list their publications and not clutter up your presentation with citations.

I suggest that you limit it (your handout) to one side of a page and make 20 copies. If there are more people than copies, they can share.  Give the copies to the session chair or a friend at the beginning of the session and let them distribute them. Don’t eat up your presentation time with distribution of handouts. Get started even if they are still being distributed.

Rehearse several times and time yourself.  If your presentation is funny, factor in time for laughter.  Leave time for questions


Presentation tip: During the Presentation

If something goes wrong with the technology, let the organizers or the chair of your session take care of it. Don’t fumble with the tech.

Pay attention to the timing cues from the chair / leader.


Presentation tip: Fielding Questions

Remember, you really do know more than most members of our audience about the topic.

Always find a way to honor the questioner.

If someone asks you a question that you cannot answer, here are things to say:

  • That is a very good question; I will have to give it consideration as I continue my study of….
  • That is a very good question; how would you answer it?

If you do not understand the question, here are some things to do?

  • Ask the speaker to reframe the question.
  • Say, “If I am correct, you are asking ….” (reword the question so that you can answer it) and then answer your question.

If someone asks a complex question that is really a series of questions, the chair of the session will interrupt the speaker and say, “One question at a time, please.”

Try very hard to leave time for at least one question.


Presentation tip: Other tips

After you are finished, take your glass of water away with you, so that the next presenter does not accidentally pick it up and drink from it.