Home 5 Conference 5 Conference Presentation for First Timers 5 Your Proposal has been accepted! Now what? 

Your Proposal has been accepted! Now what? 

Tips on Planning Your Presentation

Think about your audience

  • Who are they? Will you be presenting to a very specific group that is already familiar with your topic, or to a broad audience including trustees, students, union members, people from different sectors?
  • What does your audience bring to this content? What questions might they have? How does this content relate to what they do or know already? What concerns do they have? Are there concepts they are likely to find especially challenging or new?
  • Organize and focus your content.
  • Be selective. Don’t overwhelm your audience by cramming too much in to your presentation. Less is almost always more.
  • Be thoughtful about what is most important and make sure you put your time and emphasis there. If necessary, provide handouts for additional info.
  • Be practical. Your audience will be happier when they can use something from your presentation in their own job/life.

Use plain language

  • Avoid jargon.
  • Think about what you would say if you were talking about this topic over beers. Then say it on stage.
  • Make sure you cover the basics.

Organize Your Time

  • You may have a lot to share (you probably do!) but the time you have will go by quickly. Plan what you want to say, then cut at least 25%. (You can always keep it on a separate page in case by some miracle you have extra time to fill).
  • Leave space for questions and discussion. This is the real value in having a large group of library professionals in one room.
  • If you are given an hour to speak and you want to leave room for questions, you will need to include less than an hours’ worth of information.
  • Limit ‘chunks’ of the agenda to approximately 20 minutes in length. Shorter is sometimes OK, but not longer.
  • If the conference session is less than 90 minutes, be sure there is a good reason for asking attendees to have a discussion and/or do an exercise.

Keep it interesting

  • Incorporate multiple learning modalities (i.e. don’t just talk, and talk, and talk).
  • Tell stories.
  • Use visuals (photos, infographics) to convey key information and messages. Avoid text-based slides.
  • If you have to read off of slides or paper, keep it very short, speak clearly, and give listeners time to absorb what you’re saying.
  • Include different speakers.
  • If it makes sense, move around the room rather than standing in one place.
  • Engage the audience with Q&As, shows of hands, stand up if…, think-pair-share exercises, small group discussions, etc.
  • Ensure any exercises or discussions are purposeful, useful and engaging. An exercise for the sake of having an exercise can be frustrating for participants.

Panel Presentations

  • Make good use of the people on your panel. Focus on their unique insights and expertise.
  • As a convenor, ask the questions you think the audience will have.
  • Meet beforehand to discuss what questions will be asked and how people will answer. It is much more useful to the audience if some forethought is put into how to structure the conversation and who is bringing what to the table.
  • Panel members do not need to memorize their answers, but it is helpful to have a roadmap.
  • Not everyone has to speak to everything. (e.g. Don’t have everyone answer a question if they all have the same answer.) Rather, think about how to build on the conversations.
  • As a convenor, ask the questions you think the audience will have.

Youth Services Presentations

  • Remember that there will be people in the audience who are not children’s librarians. What bigger messages can you convey that impact the larger library community?
  • What do you want to say to people who don’t work with kids? How can they support you? How can you learn from each other?

Practicing Your Presentation

  • Be prepared – know your material! It’s OK to have notes with you but use them as a reference point not a script. It’s more engaging to listen to a person talk naturally about a topic they have practiced than to listen to someone read from a page.
  • Practice your presentation. Practice it some more.
  • Practice speaking it aloud. Practice speaking slowly and clearly. (Being nervous tends to make people speak more quickly. )
  • Time your presentation. Ensure there is room for answering questions, responding to the unexpected.
  • Practice your technology!

During Your Presentation

  • Situate What is your name? Where do you live and work? What is the nature of your job? This should be quick, but it helps the audience know where you are approaching the topic from.
  • Provide a clear and simple overview of the learning outcomes / objectives, i.e. why we’re here, and what we’re hoping to get out of the time together.
  • Make sure people can see you. (Also, use large fonts for your slides, etc.)
  • Make sure people can hear you. Speak slowly and clearly. Use the microphone; this is an accessibility issue.
  • If an audience member asks a question, repeat the question into the microphone. Don’t assume everyone in the room heard the question.
  • Pay attention to how the audience is reacting and be ready to adjust as needed.
  • Be prepared to roll with the unexpected and be comfortable with uncertainty.


  • Bring handouts, lists of references, etc. to give to folks who want more.
  • Bring business cards to hand out to people who want to continue the conversation with you.