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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 10-12 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 50 minutes.

Panels: Faculty and students may propose a panel of related presentations from a class or around a central theme. Submissions should include a unifying purpose for the panel, as well as the individual panel participants’ proposals, a session host and, if relevant, a qualified internal or external respondent to panel content. The session should also allow time for audience questions or panel member discussion with each other.

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 an exhibit similar to a poster session, whereas a dramatic work, reading, or performance will work better as a presentation. We can be flexible in finding the ideal context for your work.

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.  A faculty member can also submit an idea for a session of student work from a class, a department performance or activity, or a theme. In each case, the student should submit their own proposal.

Can faculty present on their own work?

Definitely! We welcome faculty proposals to present their current research and ask that  copies of publications within the last year be shared at the faculty publication display.

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.

You can also present on a project, even if your final data analysis and write up is unfinished by the date of the symposium. Focus your paper on your research question, process, and findings to date. You can end with preliminary conclusions and anticipated results, as well as ideas for future research.

Do I have to stay the whole time?

You do not have to stay for the entire day. BUT please stay for your entire session (50 minutes). Never leave in the middle of someone’s presentation! You can inadvertently undermine the presenter’s focus and self-confidence.

Presenters should stay for their entire session and are also encouraged to support other presenters as 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. You will be able to swipe your ID for credits.

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. While some dress codes are gendered, you should wear simple clothing, without distracting features.

Presentation tip: How to Stand

Avoid excessive movement or shifting from one foot to the other. 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  

Bring easy to read and follow notes in a hard copy, as well on your PowerPoint, so that you can keep your visual focus toward the audience and not toward the screen. DO NOT read your paper from a phone or from the computer monitor. Only use an iPad or tablet if you can track your progress easily. Devices can be distracting to both the presenter and the audience.

If you are reading a PowerPoint outline, print out a copy with 3-6 slides per page so that you can see ahead.  Consider using the PowerPoint notes feature, which can be printed alongside the slide. Insert cues in your text 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 reading from a paper, make sure that the font is large enough to be visible and contains cues like outline numbers or visual markers that align with your PowerPoint slide.

Indicate in your notes or on your paper where you anticipate a long pause and write down cues like “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. If you tend to avoid audience eye contact, you may even write notes to remind yourself to look at the audience.

In general, find ways to communicate to the audience and avoid looking at the PowerPoint screen unless you have a specific point to make about a visual or specific concept.

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

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

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 12 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.

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.

Pay attention to other presenters in your session. Be prepared to ask questions that emerge from differences or similarities in your content, methodology, or findings.

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, such as thanking them for their question or affirming an idea in the question.

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, please remove your materials or drink and leave the presentation space ready for the next presenter.