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.

Leave the Filibuster to Congress: Knowing and Engaging Your Audience

Leave the Filibuster to Congress: Knowing and Engaging Your Audience

Seth Czarnecki is the Social Media Manager for the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association. Questions? Email him:

We’ve all been through it. A presenter with a Powerpoint (maybe a Prezi, if they’re cool) gets in front of a room and speaks for forty-minutes without taking a breath. You have some ideas about the topic but are forced to keep them to yourself as the presenter drones on. By the time the ‘Questions?’ slide appears, the presenter’s time is up.

We teachers have found ourselves in this position when we were in school, and oftentimes, we still do during faculty meetings and professional development workshops. For you students, listening to an unengaging presentation is likely something with which you are all too familiar.

When crafting your presentation, consider the needs of the audience. As writing tutors, you like to talk and are more comfortable when doing so. You operate best in the noise of the writing center. So rather than monopolize the time, engage your fellow tutors and bring them into the presentation with a few simple techniques.

  1. Engage with a question. As tutors, you know the value of a question. A good question can lead the conversation in the direction you want it to go while inviting the writer to participate. The same can be true of a presentation. By leading with an engaging question (about your topic, of course), you communicate that the audience matters—and they do. Once you’ve fielded answers, you can build off of and refer back to audience insight throughout your presentation.

  2. Use a poll. Audience participation is hard, especially when they may not know the people around them. To get feedback without having to engage in the question-wait-hope for an answer model, unleash the power of technology. There are a variety of online tools (PollEverywhere, Participoll, and others) to poll your audience on questions relevant to your topic. Hear what the audience has to say without having to surrender the time to hear them say it.

  3. Get ‘em moving. Many of your audience members will have just arrived from lengthy bus rides. After sitting for an extended time, they may be ready to move. Harness this energy by building in opportunities for them to get out of their seats. You can adapt several teaching strategies, such as the “take a stand” technique or the “stand-up, sit-down” game, to incorporate movement.

As you begin designing your presentation, consider your audience and embrace the collaborative power of the tutoring session. Doing so will make your work that much more memorable.

Open Forum: The Proposal Drafting Process Struggles and Successes

Open Forum: The Proposal Drafting Process Struggles and Successes

Trisha Vamosi has directed the Eagle Writing Center since 2015. She is the Web Curator for the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association. Questions? Email her:

At this point time, if tutors/directors followed the timeline from Kate Hutton’s February 13th blog post, tutors/directors should be finalizing the secondary draft this week. Instead of creating a traditional blog post that leads you through another step of the proposal drafting process, I’d like to open up the conversation for tutors and directors alike to share any questions or concerns they have run into during their instruction or drafting process. As comments arrive, the questions or feedback will be posted on this post throughout the week.

Please fill in the form below in order to respond and share your questions, struggles, or successes. Thank you! 🙂

Why Should You Present at CAPTA 2017?

As a normally shy student, who does not like to volunteer to talk in front of large groups
of people, the idea of submitting a proposal, knowing there is a presentation in front of strangers
in my future, is daunting. However, I decided to present at CAPTA 2016, and recommend that
you do it too. Here’s why:

  1. The chance to present at CAPTA is a opportunity that few students get in high
    school. Successfully presenting at a conference (or maybe a few) is a great
    experience to have before going off to college or getting a job. Also, presenting at
    a conference looks great on college applications and resumés. It shows your
    dedication to your school and writing center, as well as your drive to share your
    ideas and help others.

  2. Usually for school presentations, the topics are not subjects we are passionate
    about; however, at CAPTA you get to talk about something you are interested in.
    As tutors, we enjoy teaching others and are excited to share our knowledge, so
    why not share your knowledge with other people who are just as passionate as
    you are!

  3. Going along with that, at CAPTA, you get to hear great new ideas from other
    schools that you can bring back to your own center. For example, at the
    conference last year, a school suggested that we hang promotional fliers on the
    back of bathroom stall doors where people are forced to look at them. My school
    hadn’t thought of that! We come from new and old writing centers, each having a
    different perspective on problems. The CAPTA conference gives us a place to
    share our different backgrounds and offer solutions to each other’s problems.

  4. There are many of us who dislike public speaking, but the only way to get better
    is to practice. Presenting at CAPTA is a fun way to get your practice in, and since
    you aren’t getting a grade, it alleviates some of the stress that come with school
    presentations. Besides, you will be in a room with tutors who are excited to hear
    what you have to say and want you to do well, so it can’t really be that bad!

I hope this has inspired you to submit a proposal, and we look forward to seeing you at the
conference this year!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at
Jenny Brent
CAPTA Student Representative
Hayfield Secondary

Off to a Good Start: Setting Up Your Students for Proposal Success

Hannah Baran founded the Albemarle High School peer tutoring center in 2013. She is an at-large member of the CAPTA Board. Questions? Email her at

If your tutors are anything like mine, they find that the most difficult parts of creating a CAPTA Conference proposal are selecting a topic and conducting research.  Here’s how I’m guiding them through that process this year.

Selecting a Topic

We actually begin selecting our topics at the previous year’s conference.  On the bus ride home, in between rounds of Heads Up and Never Have I Ever, students complete a guided brain dump of what they learned, including their ideas for good topics for the following year.  I hang onto those sheets and break them out again in the spring when it’s time to start proposing.  I also have students write a reflection in response to questions like What tutoring-related skill are you most proud of? When have you applied a tutoring skill to a situation outside of class?  What would you like to improve or learn more about?  What is our center doing well?  As I get a sense of students’ interests, I also begin playing match-maker, suggesting topics that might be combined to create a compelling panel or workshop.  (Insider’s tip: we receive far fewer proposals for these formats, so they tend to stand out.)  Once students have chosen their topic — at least tentatively — it’s time to begin researching.

Conducting Research

CAPTA Conference veterans will notice that this year’s proposal guidelines have been rewritten to more strongly emphasize the necessity of connecting presentations to scholarship in the field.  This can be overwhelming to students; there is simultaneously so much out there, and seemingly nothing related to their particular topic.  Here is how I help my tutors get started:

  • First, each student develops a list of keywords or search terms. I help out; for example, by pointing out that synonyms for ESOL include ESL and ELL.
  • Our librarians refresh students on the databases available to them as well as “ninja skills” such as using Google Scholar and boolean search terms.
  • This year, our awesome librarian, Monica Cabarcas, also compiled some tutoring-specific websites and journals onto this page.  Note that the first link, to Gale, is password-protected; however, we have found this to be the least useful source.
  • Over the years, I have built up a little library of tutoring books.  Some were purchased with a modest PTO grant, and others were acquired by asking for a review copy from the publisher.
  • I remind students to mine the bibliographies of their scholarly sources to trace useful ideas back to their point of origin.

Once they have found some useful sources, students turn in an annotated bibliography, with a minimum of 3 APA-cited, scholarly sources and a 50-100 word description of the source and how it connects to their topic. I find that after they have completed this process, they feel pretty confident about beginning to draft their proposals.

A note on logistics: Roughly half of my tutors will return to next year’s staff and half will graduate or pursue other electives. All returning tutors are expected to draft a proposal.  I have therefore paired them up, with the non-proposing tutors acting as “research assistants” for the proposing tutors. This technique has inspired fruitful conversations — especially since many of the research assistants are seniors who have presented at the conference previously — and lessened the intimidation factor of the assignment, while ensuring that I’m giving my time and attention to proposals that will actually be submitted for review.  

Best of luck to your and your tutors. I look forward to 2017 being our best conference yet!

Preparing CAPTA Proposals: A How-To Guide for Directors and Tutors

Preparing CAPTA Proposals: A How-To Guide for Directors and Tutors by Kate Hutton

Kate Hutton has co-directed the Herndon Writing Center since 2012. She is the Vice President of and the Conference Proposal Coordinator for the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association. Questions? Email her:

Are you hoping to have your tutors submit proposals for CAPTA 2017 but feeling unsure of where to begin? Then you have come to the right place! This post is meant to guide directors and tutors who are considering submitting a proposal to CAPTA 2017.

Each year, when CAPTA’s Call for Proposals (CFP) is published, my co-director and I use the CFP as an opportunity for our tutors to engage in studying proposals as a genre, to identify strengths and potential areas of growth in our writing center, and to prepare a presentation on a topic of their choosing related to our writing center.

Our writing center is primarily run through our Advanced Composition course, which tutors can take up to three years in a row. Therefore, our tutors fall into two groups: tutors who plan to re-enroll in Advanced Composition and continue tutoring next year, and tutors who do not plan to re-enroll in Advanced Composition because they are graduating or taking another elective. Regardless of their intent and whether or not they plan to submit a proposal to present at CAPTA, all of our tutors prepare a proposal and a presentation. Their proposal becomes a major 3rd Quarter grade, while they deliver their presentation as part of an in-house mini-conference at the end of the year; their presentation serves as their Final Exam for the course

Below is a step-by-step guide for breaking down the often-challenging process of preparing a proposal. At the end of this post, you will find a copy of our Proposal Project for returning tutors, a copy of our Legacy Project for non-returning and Senior tutors, and a step-by-step timeline .

Step 1: Reviewing the CFP and Identifying a Presentation Topic

As you might guess, we begin the process by reviewing CAPTA’s CFP. While tutors aren’t required to submit a proposal that directly relates to the conference theme, the guiding questions give tutors something to focus on as they reflect on the work of our center.  

Our tutors then meet in their Tutor Families (groups of about 5 experienced and novice tutors who meet regularly to discuss tutoring practices) and engage in a discussion about what we do well as a writing center and what we could be doing better. We then come back together as a class and generate a list of potential topics that tutors can focus on. If tutors come up with an idea to help remedy an area of growth, we discuss realistic ways that the tutor or the group of tutors can successfully implement their idea by the end of the school year.

Tutors then break off as individuals or into groups of up to four. They then have about a week to identify a topic for their proposal. Once they’ve identified their topic, they discuss their plan with me or my co-director, and we either advise them on how they can revise their idea or give them approval to move forward with their topic.

Step 2: Genre Study

Before tutors begin the process of drafting their proposal, we use the resources posted under CAPTA’s Guide to Submitting Proposals to engage in genre study. Tutors are given about a week to review each of the four sample proposals and to make notes on the overall topic, how effectively the author’s ideas are communicated, and how well research is incorporated into the proposal. From there, as a class we identify the characteristics of effective proposals and use those as guidelines throughout the proposal writing process.

Step 3: Drafting

Once tutors have submitted their topic and studied the genre, they then begin drafting. We require our tutors to submit two rough drafts approximately two weeks apart prior to submitting their final proposal. We also require our tutors to have their proposals tutored in the writing center so that they discuss their ideas with their peers throughout the process. This also allows us to provide tutors with feedback and point them in a different direction if need be.

Step 4: Submitting the Proposal

My co-director and I collect final proposals a week before CAPTA’s deadline so that we can provide any last-minute feedback to our tutors. Again, we do not require all tutors to submit proposals to CAPTA, but we have found that most of our tutors do decide to submit their proposal because they have spent quite a bit of time preparing it already. Tutors who do submit proposals to CAPTA do so during class time leading up to CAPTA’s proposal deadline.

Extensions: In-House Mini-Conferences

After our tutors submit their proposals, they then prepare presentations on their topics, which serve as their final project for our Advanced Composition course. The in-house mini-conference gives students the opportunity to practice their presentations in a lower-stakes environment, allows them to receive constructive feedback from their peers, and serves as a celebration of all of their hard work throughout the year.

Timeline and Assignments

Below are the assignments and the timeline our Herndon Writing Center Tutors are following as they prepare proposals for this year’s conference.

Assignment: Proposal Project for Returning Tutors

Assignment: Legacy Project for Seniors and Non-Returning Tutors