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If you’ve not got experience speaking at conference before, here are the rules to speaking.

Turn up to the room five or ten minutes before it starts. Make yourself known to the session chair. If you have a powerpoint, now’s the time to put it on the computer and test it. If you have a handout, make this known to the chair. Sit up near the front where it’s easier for you to get up and walk to the lectern to give your talk.

You paper will be 20 minutes with 10 minutes questions (usually – it might be 45 minutes with 15 minutes questions at more advanced conferences but then, if you’re presenting at one of these, you don’t need this blog entry’s advice). Your absolute limit is 25 minutes of speaking before people get restless.

Going overtime is absolutely the worst thing you can do. Do not do it. Ever.

When you write your paper, time yourself before you give it. Unless you are an experienced presenter, with a topic that you really understand in a deep way, you will need to read your presentation off the paper. A good rule of thumb is one hundred words is about one minute. You’ll need to learn how to make such a presentation interesting; it is possible. I have learnt to leave two or three small sections I can extemporise on for about a minute or so before moving back to the written text.

Speak clearly and loudly. Speak to the person furtherest away from you in the room. Don’t speak too fast. Time yourself beforehand. Look at your audience at least occassionally.

If you are in a multi-paper panel, you are in the session for everyone else’s paper. Don’t run out and go to another session before or after your own paper. Yes, there may be parallel sessions to your own with papers you want to see. Too bad. Find the presenters afterward, apologise you couldn’t see their paper, and ask about it over lunch or afternoon tea.

Networking is the main point of conferences. Go to other papers. Ask questions. Go to lunch, dinner, drinks, with other participants.