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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Research Posters : Oral Presentations

Poster sessions at conferences and professional meetings are a way to visually convey the details of your research or conclusions. This guide will offer you the basics in design, content and printing resources.


The tips on this page are meant to help you prepare for oral presentations. Many of them also apply to the lightning talk.


1.  Think of, or research, an attention grabber: a story, fact or statistic, or other interesting piece of information that will help draw in the audience right away and frame the talk in a minute or less.

2.  Focus only on the 3 most important points. Introduce them at the beginning, and repeat them at the very end.

3.  Have 2-3 specifics/particular points that fall within each of the three categories, and, if possible, also have a brief story or example to illustrate each main point.

4.  Write out transitions between major points and examples (and practice them) so your speech will flow better. Example: “So far we’ve discussed [x], but on the other end of the spectrum is this other important aspect, [y].”

5.  Be gender neutral. Even though it may not technically be grammatically correct, today it is acceptable in formal presentations in most contexts to use “they” and “them” instead of she/he, him/her.

6.  Try, if you can, to incorporate a bit of tasteful humor. It shouldn’t be forced; it needs to fit in with the rest of the speech and feel natural to be funny. Don’t be afraid to improvise during your talk, if you can do so comfortably.

7.  Have someone else read your speech, or alternately, practice your presentation in front of them – so they can critique the content and delivery.


1.  Practice and prepare. Practice in front of a mirror. Take a video or audio recording of yourself. Rehearse the presentation in your head when you are unable to rehearse it aloud. With the right amount of practice and preparation, the words will flow more easily on presentation day. Don’t strive for absolute perfection, though: too much rehearsal may make you come across stiff and stifled, not natural.

2.  When practicing, pay attention to your voice inflections, including which words and syllables you will emphasize. Be deliberate. Your voice inflections and emphases will affect your audience members’ interpretation, comprehension, and retention of the material.

3.  Know how you are going to stand, gesture, and move your body. Practice walking around a bit – moving toward your audience and back towards the screen/lectern, for example. Try to face your audience at all times, and look around the room at individual audience members as much as possible. Make the audience feel like you are directly addressing them. While some movement is fine and can complement your style, be careful not to walk or pace too much; this can be distracting.

4.  Wear comfortable professional clothing and comfortable shoes. You will not want to be distracted because you are uncomfortable.

5.  Be early. If you are running late, you will be more nervous and have less time to prepare yourself mentally.

6.  On the day of the talk, take 10-15 minutes before your presentation to relax, do some deep breathing, and keep your mind off of the presentation for a bit. You want to be relaxed during your presentation.

7.  Be confident! Be passionate! Be energetic! You’ve got this. Don’t expect to be perfect, but if you have practiced and you are confident, it will show and make for a great presentation.