4 ways teaching helped me be more effective in making a conference presentation

Arthur Leal
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Arthur Leal

Arthur Leal presents at the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists conference.

I had the opportunity to present at the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (SAAS) conference this semester about a month after I started as lead lecturer for Research and Business Writing, an undergraduate course at the University of Florida.

I imagined my teaching experience helping me in better preparing to present at SAAS. My teaching experience did help me even though the audiences were quite different.

Presenting in front of undergraduate students is quite different than presenting in front of colleagues and faculty members. Nonetheless, I still managed to extend my classroom experience into my presentation at my conference and learn how the two overlapped.

To set the stage for my conference presentation, imagine an auditorium that seats about 100 people. The auditorium was a formal setting with a horseshoe-shaped arrangement. The lighting was slightly dimmed, and there was a podium and projector available for the presenter. There were approximately 30 plus individuals present for the presentation: faculty, staff, professionals and graduate students.

In my presentation I used a PowerPoint with a clicker, allowing me to move freely in front of the room. This was a familiar setup for me, as I use it daily in my classroom.

#1 – Teaching gave me public speaking experience in front of a large group.

Being in front of a large audience three days a week for 50 minutes certainly gave me the public speaking time. I also was used to teaching a class of 86 students, and the largest audience I would probably see at SAAS would be about 50.

#2 – Teaching let me practice the kind of preparation needed to make a conference presentation.

While the style and content of a conference presentation are different from teaching a class, my teaching experience let me know my own limits and what I needed to do to prepare. I was able to address my weaknesses and look for other improvements as I taught class.

#3 – Teaching taught me the importance of having accurate information.

Teaching has not only made me practice presenting more, but it has also made me double and triple check my content. While I certainly have a lot of work to do, I think teaching a class has produced more confidence in how I share information and handle myself during presentations.

#4 – Teaching gave me practice on “thinking on my feet.”

Practicing answering student questions helped me be ready to answer questions at the conference. Even with a well-planned class, you can’t anticipate every question students may have, which is true of a conference presentation, too. Quick thinking was definitely required. I also made sure to speak with my advisor concerning content in my presentation that I was not confortable with.

#5 – Teaching let me practice a conversational style for interacting with my audience.

I like presenting new material and having people ask questions. When I spoke to my advisor before I presented, she told me to relax and to not be afraid. She reiterated the need to treat my presentation more as a conversation. The agricultural communication group was much more relaxed than other groups at this conference, so I brainstormed how I could use this to my advantage before my presentation.
As I presented, I decided to include some humor in my presentation, relaxing the audience and myself.

As I reflect on my experience at this conference and teaching in the classroom, I realize that the two compliment one another. I also realized that practice has made me more comfortable as a public speaker and professional.

Arthur Leal is a doctoral student in the Department of Agricultural Education & Communication in the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences and a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930).



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