Presenter Tips

Archive Copy.

How to make a great presentation at the KOTESOL National Conference

Some Guidelines (not requirements)

We at KOTESOL want to do all we can to help you make a great presentation, whether you are a first-time presenter or a launched professional. Here are some suggestions and helpful hints on speaking before your peers, making PowerPoint presentations that actually help your topic, using handouts, and interacting with your audience. We are committed to helping you do your best and nurturing new speakers. With that in mind, please remember these are suggestions, not requirements.

Standing before a group of students, who may or may not want to learn English, and standing before a group of peers who expect to hear something new are two different things. If you're afraid your topic won't be interesting to other professionals, don't worry. We wouldn't have chosen your presentation if we hadn't thought it would be useful to some portion of KOTESOL members or conference attendees.

Know Your Material

Standing there reading a paper sends a message that you don't know the material well, and you can't teach your audience something you don't know well yourself. Eye contact is essential, and reading a paper limits and stilts natural contact. If you ask your audience a question while reading a paper, they won't know whether they're supposed to respond or not.

There's nothing wrong, however, with notes. They can be used to keep you on track and look something like an outline, like this:

I.   Introduction/Background Information
II.  The problem
III. The study
       a.  The participants
       b.  The test
       c.  The results
IV. Conclusions

This is sufficient to get you back on track if someone asks you a question, if the equipment  fails, or if you just lose your train of thought. Notes should not substitute for knowing your material. See below on using PowerPoint for this purpose.


'Practice' can mean standing before a group of people, giving your presentation as you would at the conference, but there are other ways you can practice. First of all, just discussing your project informally with friends and colleagues is extremely beneficial. You don't have to worry about the larger structure and you can still find your weak spots. Pay attention to the questions they ask and incorporate them into your actual presentation. This is all part of knowing your material well.

Bear in mind that the length of concurrent sessions is either 25 or 50 minutes at this 2014 national conference. You are expected to respect your audience and other presenters by finishing on time, which includes time for questions and input from the audience. Clear away and get out of the room quickly so the next session can set-up. You can continue chats with your audience participants in the hallway.

Common Mistakes with PowerPoint and Similar Presentation Software

This section is for presenters who intend to use PowerPoint, Prezi, or similar presentation technologies. Many people make great presentations without these display programs, and you shouldn't feel compelled to use displays if you're more comfortable without them.

PowerPoint can be either a powerful tool or a mis-used one. It can enhance presentations and make them more memorable or, perhaps more frequently, it makes them harder to follow. Humans are single-channel beings and cannot process information coming at them from both the speaker and the screen, even on the same  topic. Many speakers compete with their own PowerPoint presentations and never realize it.

Remember that no one wants to watch the presenter read a paper; likewise, no one wants to watch the high-tech version of this where the speaker reads the PowerPoint slides. In fact, it's even worse because the audience reads silently faster than the presenter can read aloud.

Use pictures rather than words. Words on the screen will compete with those you say; pictures will complement and reinforce them. Say it verbally, show it graphically.  Words can, of course, be used, but your audience shouldn't have to stop listening to you to read them. Outline headings work fine and can help you as well since you won't have to look at your notes. They can appear non-obtrusively at the top of the slide. Diagrams need labels, and sentence with the kind of grammatical structure you're talking about can be shown on the screen to good effect. One simple rule of thumb is that if there are more than 7 lines, or more than 25 words, the slide has too much text.  Tables of data are almost always a bad idea for displays at ELT conferences.

Don't use too many of  those fancy, animated transitions.

Just because you use PowerPoint to make a certain point does not mean you have to use it for the entire presentation. Don't fill up subsequent screens for the entire 45-minutes just because you need it for five minutes. Turn the screen off or insert some blank screens in the file. It is your helper, not your co-presenter. Think of PowerPoint as an OHP. Just because you use the OHP for one slide does not mean you need to keep showing new slides until you're finished. You can turn off the OHP and use it only when you need it, and you can, and should, do the same with PowerPoint.  A gray-colored slide is the equivalent (not white, not black, not blue).

Please plan to use our Windows computers. They will include a recent version of PowerPoint.  If you need Prezi, bring an auto-play (.exe) version. Do not plan to plug your computer in to the projection system. Changing machines wastes your time before your session, and delays the presenter after you.

Do not expect a live internet connection, or computer audio, unless you have confirmed that with the program team at least three weeks in advance. All rooms have whiteboards (some have high-tech whiteboards). The PowerPoint display may interfere with whiteboard visibility, so if you need both, tell us at least three weeks in advance (this affects room assignments).

It's nice to have a title page showing your name, affiliation and title of your presentation and have this up prior to your talk as the audience trickles in. You can also insert this screen into areas where you don't need to use PowerPoint. Remember to include your contact information at the end of the presentation as well.


Handouts are rather similar to PowerPoint in that many people are going to be looking at them rather than listening to you. They're going to be ahead of you only now they have the entire presentation, not just the current slide, before them. For this reason, many presenters give out their handouts only after they have finished talking. However, you may require that the audience examines a text (for words they expect students won't understand, or to find student errors, etc.), in which case you will need to distribute them at the beginning. (Although we warn against using a lot of language in a PowerPoint presentation, we are language teachers, and cases like these are a good exception, particularly if you're not talking while the audience is examining them.) Decide how you want to handle handouts before your session.

Deliver as promised

Your audience expects a session matching the abstract in the program, which is the proposal you submitted to the conference committee (unless you have negotiated after the original submission). A workshop involves the audience in activity (physical and/or mental). A methods session gives attendees a 'take-away' they might use in their next classes, so provide sufficient information and examples. A research session should present the highlights of your study, not get bogged down with data or how to perform x-type analysis (it is not a research methods course!). Remember that Extended Summaries, Proceedings, and journals are the place to more fully describe the data. Plan to start on time, but even if you start late, finish on time.

Interacting With Your Audience

KOTESOL strongly encourages workshops, where attendees do more than just listen. Please note that if you indicated "workshop" in your conference proposal, the audience will be expecting activity, not a lecture. It you have arranged a more traditional lecture-style presentation, we still encourage you to interact with the audience.

Don't be afraid to ask questions to your audience. These can be the kind where you know (or think you know) the answer they'll give you, or perhaps not. They can require answers of some length, perhaps requiring that a participant or two state their answer, or they could be simple yes/no questions. Will they share their answers with a partner, with the full audience, will they write something?

You may want to ask for a show of hands ('Who's ever experienced the problem I'm describing?'). Questions to the audience make the presentation more interactive, involves them more, and gives you a chance to take a sip of water. Note, though, that it is nearly impossible to ask your audience questions, but expect them to hold on to theirs until you're finished. You may also want to ask your audience to actually do something, perhaps stand up and act out something to the person next to them. This can be very useful in illustrating a certain point or simulating the student experience, but remember that ultimately the audience came to hear from you.

Some speakers prefer to take questions after they have finished, and some prefer that the participants ask them at any time. The former has the benefit of letting you speak without getting sidetracked or losing your train of thought, but you run the risk of moving on to a new point when the audience doesn't understand your previous one. The latter lets you end with a strong finish you prepared rather than on audience questions. Which method you take is your decision, but your audience will appreciate it if you announce your preference at the beginning.

Miscellaneous Points

Student volunteers will be assigned to your room. They will help you with minor aspects of the equipment, handout papers for you if you wish, and also they will let you know, by holding up a sign, when you have ten minutes left and again when you have five. They are neither technicians nor servants.

Don't be deterred if someone walks out of your room halfway through. People commonly do this because there is another presentation at the same time as yours and they're trying to get both in. It's a compliment to you that they chose to attend yours even when there was something else they wanted to see.

Likewise, be prepared that people may walk in halfway through for the same reasons. Don't forget to give contact information, especially your e-mail address, out to the audience, on your handout and/or PowerPoint presentation or even on the whiteboard. Someone will probably ask you for it if you do forget. Some people are too shy to ask questions in front of others, especially if English isn't their first language, and frequently there just isn't time. Some people will likely come up and talk to you after you've concluded the presentation, but there may be others who want to but didn't get there first.


Finally, remember that nothing would make KOTESOL happier than for you to give a killer presentation. We want to say, 'Wow. Let's make sure this person presents again next year!' Your success contributes to our own, so if there are any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us. The advice given here is just that: advice. These are not conference requirements you must adhere to (except time limits, of course). The best speakers capitalize on what makes them unique.


Extended Summaries and Proceedings

As a conference for teaching professionals, opportunities for publication of scholarship is of course the norm.  KOTESOL offers two opportunities to disseminate your work:

  • Extended Summaries
  • Conference Proceedings

Submissions for Extended Summaries must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be received not later than 11:59pm Saturday May 10th at
  • MSWord .doc or .docx file
  • A4 page size (297 mm x 210 mm)
  • 4 page limit with the following page design requirements
  • Margins:  Top and Bottom, 3.5 cm; Left and Right, 2.5 cm
  • No running header or footer, no page numbers, datemarks, or watermarks.
  • Text Formatting:
  • Single-spaced throughout
  • Title - Arial 16 point bold centered; line-space following (blank line below)
  • Author - Arial 10 point bold margin right
  • Affiliation (school/employer) - Arial 10 point bold margin right
  • Email - Arial 10 point (unbolded) margin right; line-space following
  • Section Head - Arial 12 point bold centered text; line-space prior and following
  • Subsection Head - Arial 11 point bold margin left; line space prior only (but if subsection head immediately follows section head, only one blank line between these)
  • Subsubsection Head (discouraged) - Arial 10 point underscored margin left; line space prior only (but if subsubsection head immediately follows subsection head, only one blank line between these)
  • Text - Times New Roman or Times 10 point justified text
  • Paragraphing - Single line-space between paragraphs, no indentation; one character-space only between sentences
  • Titles for tables - Arial 11 point bold centered
  • Captions for figures, graphs and other imagery - Arial 10 point centered (Example:   Figure 1. How to create figures in APA style.)
  • Single line-space prior to titles for tables and captions for figures, graphs and other imagery
  • Two line-spaces following figures, tables, graphs and other imagery
  • References (and Endnotes) - use Section Head formatting to indicate title of these sections, then text in Times New Roman or Times 10 point, with hanging indents at 1.5 cm. Do not use footnotes. Endnotes are discouraged
  • Appendices (if any) follow References and are lettered (Appendix A, Appendix B) only if there are more than one
  • APA style throughout (other than as defined above)
  • Images, tables, graphs, appendices, etc must be included within the page limit

See the Purdue University Online Writing Lab pages for a quick guide to APA formatting -

A sample of a formatted paper is available here (and linked at bottom of this page)

Information on KOTESOL National Conference Proceedings 2014 will be made available at the conference. These will be published in hardcopy through a partnering journal and made available online roughly 9 months after the conference if three or more suitable submissions are accepted. The submission requirements and deadline will be announced at the conference.


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