wikiHow to Present at a Conference

One very useful and important way that professionals such as scientists, educators, professionals and business leaders share information is by presenting at an annual meeting, conference or convention. While there is a great deal of variability in the methods used by the organizers to select the content for one of these events, the precise details of which you should familiarize yourself with by reading their documentation, there is also a common process followed by many that applies generally.

This article will provide a brief review of the steps which may need to be followed to prepare a proposal so that you can be considered for a slot on the agenda.


  1. Image titled Present at a Conference Step 1
    Determine how the organizers select content. This may normally be determined by checking the conference or professional organization's website. If that information is not available on the website, don't be shy about telephoning or sending an email to the conference organizers. They're prepared to receive such queries and will likely have a package or standard reply to send to you.
    • Some conferences will have only invited addresses. That means that they simply select the presenters from experts who they are already familiar with. These conferences are generally not for beginning presenters. Potential ways be invited to submit in the future might include: publishing and presenting elsewhere to build reputation in the field and/or networking with the conference organizers.
    • Other conferences will issue a Call for Proposals prior to the conference. They will then select content from amongst the submitted proposals.
    • Conferences may also have a combination of invited presentations and content solicited through a Call for Proposals.
  2. Image titled Present at a Conference Step 2
    Request a copy of the Call for Proposals. The call for proposals should describe the types of sessions at the conference. These might include:
    • Invited address. Normally given by someone distinguished in the field (this may last up to about an hour long).
    • Plenary session or general session. A session recommended for all conference attendees. Nothing is scheduled to compete with these sessions (although these slots vary dependent on the context, they may last about an hour to an hour and a half long).
    • Paper sessions. These are sessions in which the presenter describes the results or conclusions coming out of recently completed work. The time slot would be typically 15 to 30 minutes in length. This content is usually solicited through a Call For Proposals or a Call for Papers.
    • Poster sessions. These sessions are held in a large room which has been filled with large bulletin boards which are perhaps 4 feet (1.2 m) tall and 6 feet (1.8 m) wide (the bulletin board is elevated several feet off the floor for easy viewing). The content for each individual bulletin board is solicited through the Call for Proposals. Generally, these sessions run for 1 to 3 hours. The presenter is normally expected to stand by the poster for a significant part of the session to discuss the poster with attendees who will circulate from poster to poster during the session. This is an excellent starting point for beginners.
    • Workshops. This is a session in which a methodology or technique to taught to attendees by an expert in the field. Workshops may run from 2 hours to all day. While workshops may be solicited through the Call for Proposals, this type of session is not for the beginner to present.
    • Panels and Debates. This provides an opportunity for experts in the field with conflicting findings or differing points of view to discuss their ideas in front of an audience.
    • Exhibit Hall. This refers to paid space for showing and selling commercial products.
  3. Image titled Present at a Conference Step 3
    Study the Request for Proposals carefully.
    • Content requested will certainly include directory information such as name, address, etc. Beyond that, expect to be asked for a presentation title and an abstract or summary of the presentation of 50-200 words. Some conferences will also ask for a detailed paper ranging from 500 words to 5 pages. Some conferences will also ask for qualifications such as degree(s) earned, professional experience, professional membership(s), etc.
    • Attend to due dates. They may range from as little as 3 weeks before the conference to as much as 1.5 years before the conference.
  4. Image titled Present at a Conference Step 4
    Submit your proposal exactly as requested and prior to the due date. You may be directed to submit your proposal for blind review. That means that you should not put your name or other identifying information in the proposal (except, of course, for the name and directory information slots on the proposal form). The reviewers will not see the directory information nor will they be told whose work they are reviewing. Thus, the work will be judged (in theory) by quality alone, not be the reputation (or lack of reputation) by the person submitting. This type of review may be advantageous to the individual who does excellent work but is not well known in the field.
  5. Image titled Present at a Conference Step 5
    Wait to receive your evaluation. A team of reviewers will study your proposal and prepare comments (most likely) for you.
  6. Image titled Present at a Conference Step 6
    Study your evaluation carefully. Your proposal may be:
    • Accepted outright. Congratulations!
    • Accepted with recommendations for improvement. Take the comments seriously and improve your presentation accordingly.
    • Rejected with recommendations for improvement and submitting for a future conference (perhaps the next year).
    • Rejected.
  7. Image titled Present at a Conference Step 7
    Follow instructions. You will receive instructions for preparing your poster or talk. Be sure to follow the instructions furnished by your conference. Read through them well in advance in case you have questions or issues that need raising with the organizers well before the date.


  • Sometimes conference websites become unstable a few days before due dates because so many people are trying to submit at the same time. Avoid missing your ability to submit on time due to website instability by submitting early.
  • The terms conference, convention, and annual meeting are sometimes used interchangeably by various organizations.

Things You'll Need

  • Conference website or materials

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