School of English

Hints and Advice


The following is meant to be a rough guide for postgraduates who have never presented a paper at an academic conference or symposium. It is by no means an all-inclusive guide, but rather an amalgamation of thoughts based on other postgraduates’ conference experiences.

Presenting your paper

Although the symposium is meant to be a casual event, we will be maintaining a strict time limit for all papers by warning you when you have one minute remaining. You will be expected to present papers that are no more than 10 minutes in length. That means you will have to make sure you pick your topic appropriately – don't try to present your whole thesis in one go!

a. Timing:

Make sure you give yourself at least a day before the conference to practice delivering your paper aloud a few times (preferably in front of an obliging friend or family member) before you present it. As a rough guide, a 10-minute paper should be somewhere in the region of 1000-1500 words in length.

b. Practice:

Practising your paper will also give you the opportunity to discover any words or combinations of words that leave you tongue-tied, and to make the appropriate changes to facilitate delivering your paper.

c. Forward Planning:

Be prepared to cut a chunk out of your paper if you find yourself running over time. Although this won't happen during the symposium, at other conferences there may be occasions when people in your panel are permitted to run over their time limit, leaving you with less time than you had anticipated to give your paper. For that reason, it's always a good idea to have previously selected about 3-4 minutes worth of material that could be removed from your paper if absolutely necessary.


Organising your paper

Organise your paper with an introduction, body, and conclusion. This might sound obvious, but in the rush to get all the information out there within the time limit, people often forget the basic structure of an essay. For a 10-minute paper, you should try to offer a brief schedule of your paper for the first 2 minutes, expand on each point for 8 minutes, and conclude for the final 2-3 minutes.

Correct use of language

Use accessible, concise language: This doesn’t mean you should dumb down your work, but you should try to remember that your audience has to understand the points of your paper simply by listening to it; they won’t have the luxury of being able to read it. So, try not to jam five or six polysyllabic words together in every sentence; besides being mind-numbing for the audience, it will also be very difficult for you to deliver.


Speak slowly and clearly during your presentation. A particularly difficult task if you suffer from stage fright, but this is where practicing beforehand comes in handy. If all else fails, you might want to highlight or write in a large font any words or phrases you wish to emphasise during your presentation.

Audio Visual Aids

If you are using AV equipment, make sure everything is set up in the room before you give your paper (i.e. have your PowerPoint slides ready to go on the computer, the DVD paused at the correct moment on the television, etc). Try to deal with any technical problems before you give your paper; you don't want to waste valuable presentation time trying to set up your equipment. Have a Plan B ready just in case – don’t trust or rely too much on the technology working eg. have acetates or a handout to back up PowerPoint.


School of English

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The University of Nottingham
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telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5900
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