FAQ for Presenters

When is the Ruhlman Conference?

April 26, 2017 from 9:30 am - 5:40 pm at Wellesley College.

How Long Should My Presentation Be?

There are two variations of formats.

15-minute formats:

  • Talk* (An individual student gives an oral presentation about some original research she has conducted. Sometimes two students may choose to present a single talk together.)
  • Short Performance (An individual or group of students presents a short (15-20 minutes) musical or theatrical piece.)
  • Film Screening (An individual or group of students presents an original film or video.)
  • Literary Reading (An individual student reads an original text, typically a series of poems or part of a short story.)

Please note the committee will schedule all 15-minute presentations with related presentations of the same type into 70-minute sessions with a connected theme.

70-minute formats:

  • Pre-formed Panel Discussion (Several students discuss the same topic. Participants are either members of a class or have joined together to prepare material that will last for an entire 70-minute session.)
  • Poster Session* Application due March 24th, please email your name, class year, advisor's name, max 150 word abstract with title to ruhlman@wellesley.edu (An individual student prepares a poster describing the original work she has done. Sometimes two students may choose to present a single poster together. Presenters remain with their posters during their scheduled 70-minute session in order to help visitors understand the visually presented material. Posters also remain up for the entire conference and can be visited even when the presenters are not there.)
  • Exhibition (An individual student presents original art work in the form of drawings, paintings, sculpture, photos, etc. Presenters remain with their exhibits during the scheduled 70-minute session in order to help visitors understand the visually presented material. Exhibits also remain up for the entire conference and can be visited even when the presenters are not there.)
  • On Location Presentation (an individual student or group of students prepares a presentation that involves bringing the audience to a site on campus. For example, environmental studies students might prepare a presentation to be given at an ecological site, or architecture students might prepare a presentation to be given on a walk around the campus. Rain date contingency plans should also be made.)
  • Interactive Teaching Presentation (An individual student or group of students prepares a presentation that is designed to teach the audience about a subject using interactive techniques that require audience participation.)
  • Long Performance (A group of students presents a musical or theatrical piece.)

*Note: Students may wish to display a poster that includes the same material as for their short talk. Such posters will not be listed separately in the program. Students planning to give a talk and also prepare a poster should select "Talk" as their preferred format. Arrangements for posters will be made at a later time.

How Can I Make My Presentation Lively and Interesting?

Enthusiasm is very contagious, so show your own enthusiasm for your material. Be sure to talk about the aspect of your research or paper that lights you up the most. Your interest will spark your audience’s interest.

What Other Speaking Points Should I Keep in Mind?

Here are just a few, not in any particular order:

  1. Speak loudly enough to be comfortably heard.
  2. Use pauses effectively: for punctuation, to change your thought, for emphasis, to allow a distraction to pass.
  3. Use repetition: As a memory aid, to give interim summaries, to make key points clear.
  4. Repeat a key point from a different viewpoint to give more of your listeners access to understanding your point.
  5. Observe your audience to make sure you’re being understood.
  6. Use gestures.
  7. Keep your talk around the theme … don’t go off too far from it. Make sure your subpoints have a relationship to your theme.
  8. Looking at your audience helps you see if they’re following you and allows your audience to connect with you.
  9. Don’t just look at one person the whole time, nor constantly swivel your head like a pendulum.
  10. Place your notes in a way that allows you to easily look up to see your audience.
  11. Try to word your speech in a way that involves the audience, if that is appropriate. Use words such as "you" or "your" when appropriate, but don’t overdo it either.
  12. In speaking, use sense stress and modulation. Variety in modulation makes for an enjoyable listening experience.
  13. Use illustrations and/or examples when appropriate.
  14. Keep these simple.
  15. Use your conclusion to either summarize your argument (briefly) and/or rouse your audience to action, whatever is most appropriate. But don’t just end your presentation without giving the audience a clear idea of what needs to be done, happen, or how the information affects them.


How Should the Presenter Dress?

Your manner of dress should dignify your presentation. Good personal appearance will contribute to your poise and confidence. When in doubt err on the side of dressing more conservatively.

Is it Okay for People to Leave Between Presentations?

With over 200 presentations scheduled for the day, many will want to see or hear particular presentations that are in different venues. Therefore it is to be expected that some people will be leaving or entering the room between, or even during, presentations.

Should I Read My Paper or Should I Present It?

A presentation with a lot of audience contact is always preferable. However, if your material is very complex or complicated, then by all means read it. However, be sure to practice a lot, perhaps in front of a mirror, before delivering it.

How Large Will My Audience Be?

Most sessions will be in large rooms, however it is impossible to predict how many will show up for each session. Our experience has been that between 12 and 75 people will attend most sessions.

How Can I Control My Nervousness?

A few tips below:

  1. Get familiar with the room and equipment you might be using ahead of time,
  2. Practice several times, at least once in front of a friend or roommate, or in front of a mirror.
  3. Remember that your audience wants you to do well and are rooting for you. So try to relax as much as possible. Deep breaths and pausing often help if you start to feel overwhelmed during your presentation. (Don’t breathe out into the mike though.)
  4. Q: How much time do I spend at my exhibit if I’m doing a poster session?
  5. A: Expect to be available at least during the time allotted.