As a freshman in college, I began volunteering as a research assistant at a child language research lab with monolingual and bilingual children. I used the opportunity to learn about the speech-language pathology profession from a linguistic and research point of view—from both the SLP grad students who were volunteering and from my supervisor. I participated in research studies by collecting and analyzing data and soaked in as much information as I could. Within a few months, I was given the opportunity to co-present our research at the Student Research Day through CUNY’s Graduate Center.
About a year later, I had another opportunity to present my own research during a poster session at the ASHA Convention. It was a nerve-wracking experience! This was going to be my first time presenting on my own, my research mentor had fallen ill and couldn’t travel with me as originally planned, I was participating in ASHA’s PROmoting the next GENeration of Researchers (PROGENY) program, and the author of the research study I based my own research on was attending the ASHA Convention—no pressure, right?!
I received a tremendous amount of support from my mentor and peers at the research lab, support which made all the difference in calming my nerves. Now, I want to share some of that support and guidance I received with you!
5 Tips for Presenting Your First Research Presentation
- Plan Ahead. Plan out all of the steps involved in presenting at the conference—from submitting your abstract to preparing your poster and presenting it. Give yourself plenty of time to execute each piece.
- Be Concise. When presenting research posters, make sure you have the most important points stated as concisely as possible on the poster—include key concepts, your research question, literature review, methods and materials, and impact/results.
- Practice, Practice, Practice. I met with my mentor and peers multiple times to discuss what I wanted to say in my research presentation and how I was going to present it. Getting feedback from them as I prepared was invaluable.
- Maintain Professionalism. Something’s bound to go wrong before your presentation—you’ll misplace your poster, miss the bus, or spill coffee on your shirt. No matter what, compose yourself, don’t make excuses, and remain calm and professional.
- Just Be You! Feel comfortable and proud of the work you accomplished. Explain your research at a personal level rather than sounding academic, which could go over your audience’s head.
Expand Your Horizons Through Research
Presenting at those two conferences gave me experiences I’ll never forget. They opened the door for me to continue exploring the field of CSD research; present at other local, state, and national conferences; and receive a National Science Foundation grant.
When it comes to doing research or presenting at conferences, I encourage you to find a topic that spurs intense interest and makes you want to learn more about it. Set goals for yourself in your research and push yourself. If you truly love the topic, you’ll find that talking about it comes easily and naturally—then, conference attendees and colleagues will respond positively to your passion, energy, and interest.