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Advice LibParlor Contributor

Sharing your research with the world: An exploration of conference mediums and effective presentations

Jessica Rardin & Maddi Brenner offer some advice for early career librarians on presenting research via different conference mediums.

Jessica Rardin is the Learning & Engagement Librarian at the University of Wyoming Libraries. Jessica earned her MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She works with first-year students and first-year focused courses. Jessica’s research interests include best practices for pedagogy, visual literacy, and accessible design. Jessica would like to thank her colleagues Sammy Peter and Shannon Smith for their conversations as this project developed and her ACRL IS mentor, Frances Brady, for the presentation advice.

Maddi Brenner is the Outreach and Reference Librarian at the University of Iowa Libraries. In her role, she fosters engagement with students, faculty and local community to promote library resources. She is passionate about bridging gaps between information knowledge, libraries and accessible learning environments. Her research interests explore information in society and how information institutions are perceived through both a historical and or contemporary lens. She earned her MLIS and MS in Urban Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

As new researchers, there is always the question of what to do next to share and promote your results and experiences. Due to Covid-19 and the acknowledgement of the high cost of travel and conferences, there are now more ways to share your research at conferences including hybrid, virtual, and in-person. These different modalities come with their own intricacies around attending, sharing, and presenting. While it may be an easy choice for some researchers, like those who get invited to present, for others, it may be difficult to weigh the options and prioritize what is best for you and your presentation. 

The number of options available for researchers can be challenging and quite confusing. Most presentations held in person can also extend online virtually for viewers there. Likewise, virtual-only presentations require a new level of understanding in engagement practices, creative solutions for technology and easily digestible slides and content for the audience. These nuances are only a small sliver of the ever-evolving updates and changes at library conferences and can cause a bit of imposter syndrome for new researchers. 

As new researchers, presenting and sharing your research and projects is key to building your professional reputation and finding future collaborators. Sharing research may also be part of the tenure and promotion process, which can add additional pressure to present whenever and wherever possible. 

When you’re publishing a book, an article, or hey, even a blog post, you have a sense of what’s happening with your work. You may also know that it will be licensed under a specific Creative Commons license, Open Access framework, or published online for the world to read. With a conference presentation, things may not always be as straightforward, so how does that change our approach to presentations and materials? 

We have experiences presenting in a variety of formats as early career librarians and pulled together a few recommendations and what to think about as you prepare to share your research at a conference. 

Some recommendations:

Submission and Presentation Process

Ask questions! Will this be recorded? Can anyone access the recording or will it be limited? What are the privacy settings for the conference app?

  • This recommendation is applicable for all types of conference presentations as there may be a conference app or website where presentation information can be found. By virtue of being online, there is a likelihood of materials/presentations being shared beyond the conference app/video presentation.
    • Some specific presentations may not be appropriate, due to the nature of the research, beyond the synchronous time. You may be given the option to opt-out of a recorded and published session. Talk with the organizers if the information being shared or talked about is sensitive or personal in nature, which may not be comfortable for participants involved. Feel confident in knowing that it’s also okay to turn down the possibility of recording your session. 
    • There are sometimes disclaimers put on conference websites, such as ACRL 2023, where online content can be viewed for one year after the conference. This may include a recording of your session or uploaded materials. Jessica was recently accepted to a conference that included the following information to ensure that presenters understood and consented to their presentation sharing plan before submitting a proposal: “Presenters must also agree that sessions will be recorded and publicly posted online following the conference. Please visit our FAQ for presenter information, including session formats and important dates” (Lifelong Information Literacy Conference, 2023). Similarly, Maddi’s hybrid presentation session was recorded and stayed on the conference app for a year, including transcripts. 

Information privilege

  • Conference attendance can be pricey for an in-person event which means not all interested parties are able to attend. Online or hybrid options can be cheaper because you are not paying for the conference overhead or personal travel, and are more accessible for those with health and medical considerations. To ensure those who are unable to attend can still engage with your research, we recommend depositing your conference materials into an Open Access or institutional repository. This will help those who want to further engage with your materials to view them after the presentation or those who discover your topic later to see your results.
  • When creating engaging presentation materials, ensure any materials you are uploading are following accessible design principles. This is key to sharing your ideas as widely as possible. 
  • Include your own Creative Commons license if you can to ensure that others understand how any materials such as slideshows, videos, lesson plans, or other research items can be remixed or used. Many presenters also include a link to resources that can be accessed during or after the presentation such as Google Drive folders, open access repositories, or specific web resources. This is another way of engaging your audience and sharing information and ideas after the conference concludes.

Hybrid best practices

  • Take advantage of online polls and virtual questionnaire systems like PollEV or Padlet. During Maddi’s hybrid presentation session, she used PollEV as a resource for both audiences (online and in-person) to answer an ice breaker at the beginning of the presentation and as a Q&A space (with an anonymous option) at the end. This dual functionality fostered more engaging conversation between the two spaces and increased engagement. Online questionnaire polls and platforms create community across the hybrid audience and are accessible for both spaces in real time. It might be valuable to include links out to sources and use video in the presentation for hybrid sessions.
  • Does your content make sense to all audiences? Are all formats interactive and effective? Practice your presentation in multiple formats: online, in-person and hybrid to stay prepared for success when the time comes. Maddi used this technique to her advantage after a few links in her presentation weren’t working online. Instead of creating more nerves from the lack of content, she cracked a joke, recollected what was on the link and moved forward. She even sent out a separate email with the updated links after the presentation. Two important things to remember: One, you are the only one who really knows the material so don’t worry so much about being flawless during the session; and two, multiple formats in a presentation can make links and processes harder to navigate. With practice (using all three spaces for practice– hybrid, in-person and online), you can feel and be more successful when live. 

Being a new researcher and presenter is nerve-wracking! You may be anticipating the worst possible outcomes. We attended ACRL 2023 in different modalities as attendees and felt that same sense of imposter syndrome even while having no responsibilities to present. Being brave enough to get on the screen or in front of a crowd means you are putting your ideas out into the world. It’s not about you it’s about your research. A mentor of Jessica’s gave some advice around nerves – you are in conversation with the attendees and you have the easy job. You prepared your part, and now the audience picks up with the hard work of asking questions and engaging with your research.

Photo by Kane Reinholdsten on Unsplash

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The expressions of the writers do not reflect anyone’s views but their own.

Nimisha is a subject librarian at University of Cincinnati, where she supports all research, reference, collection development, and digital scholarship for history, gender studies, and anthropology. In her spare time you can find her riding her bike, knitting, or reading. @mishiebhat on Twitter.

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