Keeping Cool Under Pressure: Presentation Tips for the 2017 CAPTA Conference

Beth Harar is an At-Large Member of the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association. Questions? Email her:

For the last few months, you’ve worked hard to put together a solid proposal for the CAPTA 2017 Conference. Your proposal is organized, engaging, and original. You’ve submitted it to the CAPTA committee and are one-hundred percent ready to wow your audience.
There’s just one little snag – you actually have to stand up in front of your peers and pull it off.
For some of us, presenting in front of a crowd is easy. For others, not so much. However, there are some important public speaking and presentation tips everyone should keep in mind for the big day.
1. Dress for Success
Remember – you are attending a professional conference, so you want to dress the part. Look classy, but keep it comfortable. If you aren’t accustomed to walking around in three inch heels, a day-long conference is not the place to break them in.
2. Be Friendly and Make Eye-Contact
Your audience is genuinely interested in what you have to say. Greet them with a smile and make eye-contact during your presentation. This engages your audience, and makes you an approachable presenter. Practice with your family and friends; it gets easier with time.
3. Speak Up
Chances are, you’ll be in a room packed with people. More bodies means more background noise. Make sure you speak clearly and loudly so that your audience can hear your words of wisdom. When you first start your presentation, don’t hesitate to ask the people in the back if they can hear you. By doing so, you grab their attention and can start strong.
4. Avoid Distractions
Most people are naturally nervous when they present. Be conscious of repetitive movements, like pacing, swaying, or foot tapping. Practice your presentation as much as you can to avoid unwanted words and sounds like “um” or “uh” from dominating your workshop. These distractions can detract from the important information in your presentation.
5. Interact With Your Audience
Don’t be afraid to walk around and talk to your audience. It’s a great way to engage them in the presentation, and to encourage participation. The best times to do this are when they first enter the room, while you have them completing small tasks or group work, and while they are packing up to leave. Not only will they feel more connected to your presentation, but they can offer unique insight and ideas you may not have considered.

If I can offer one last piece of advice, it is to be yourself! As a writing center tutor, you have valuable experiences to share with your audience. Relax, take a deep breath, and remember that your audience is here to learn from your valuable experiences.

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