As I was cracking on with my paper for the Contemporary Women’s Gothic conference in Brighton, the registration form arrived in my inbox and prompted me to think again about how to present the paper when it asked if speakers have any technical requirements. Every time I write a paper I think on this, and from my experience of both listening to and giving papers, it seems there are three options which each have their own pros and cons.
Supplement your paper with a PowerPoint presentation.
This has a number of benefits. You can show wow with techno-wizardry such as images! and audio! and video! – all of which offer welcome relief to the weary conference attendee. For poetry papers, I particularly like it when PowerPoint is used not just to show quotes from poems, but to highlight particular features and technical aspects. I prefer using Prezi if I am making a presentation since its relative obscurity piques the interest too. If you are shy, you might use this to draw the audience’s eyes from your red face.
The cons to using PowerPoint are sadly numerous. Death by PowerPoint is not unknown, and sitting through slide after slide of meaningless quotes is boring and detracts from the paper. Some people simply do not know how to use a slideshow. Common errors include putting in so many slides that you haven’t read the title before skipping forward three slides to another far too long quote. Similarly, if all you are going to display is the title of your paper, why waste time putting in your memory stick and loading powerpoint just so we can stare at it?
For the presenter, too, PowerPoint is full of danger. If your paper relies heavily on it – and your panel happens to be in the one room with no projector or the computer is password protected or your file is magically corrupted – all your hard work is sunk. Aside from that, for some, clicking to the next slide proves far too great a technical feat while reading from sheets of paper.
Give them a handout.
Ah, paper. I actually find this the best solution because aside from fire, little much can go wrong. Your audience can cheerfully follow any long-winded quotations, or look at specific lines from a poem while still preserving the overall context. It is a handy place to stick your email address too, if networking is your thing.
However, reader beware. Calculating how many copies you will need is a tricky art. Inevitably your printer will run out of ink. That picture you included will probably be too grainy. Put too much text on and it is bewildering. Also, those poor trees.
Just deliver your paper unaided.
With no prepared material, what can go wrong?
Just beware of their yawns and bewildered faces and you skip over your perfectly polished paper which makes sense to you and no-one else.
Which option do you prefer?