Professional Learning

8 Tips for Creating Engaging Conference Presentations

This weekend, just like my colleague Chelsie, I presented at the Iowa / Nebraska Art Educators Conference. For those who attended my presentation, you were an amazing and engaging audience! It was a full room with a lot of energy.

During AOE’s Fall Conference Tour, I will be presenting at various Midwest Art Ed Conferences. I’ve always enjoyed presenting and speaking, perhaps it comes from my days in the high school musical….However, even though I enjoy it, I’ve definitely had my fair share of “doozies” when it comes to presenting. Based upon my own mistakes and triumphs over the years, I have compiled 8 tried and true tricks for getting up in front of your peers, and rocking your next conference presentation!

8 Tips for Creating Engaging Conference Presentations

1. Ditch the Notecards

When presenting my Master’s Thesis, I decided 5 minutes before my presentation to ditch the note cards. It couldn’t have gone better. I was more authentic without my note cards to hide behind, and I realized my Power Point had enough to guide me.

2. Have a Slide Presentation, but Don’t be a Slave to It

Passion doesn’t need a Power Point. I like to have the slides to help me refer to my ideas, and to visualize ideas that are hard to verbalize, but that is about it. I look at it once at my next slide, look away, and speak from the heart.

3. Use Lists to Organize Information

People like lists, and it helps them file away information in a more practical way. Instead of saying anything and everything about Assessment, I broke it down into things like “3 Components of a Good Art Assessment.” Breaking things down is a win-win for both the presenter and the participants.

4. Tell a Story

The best way to connect with your audience is to tell a story. Chances are, as art educators, you have all shared similar experiences along the way, and storytelling sets the stage for your listeners to relate to you and trust the information you will be presenting.

5. Encourage Participation

Asking a few simple questions, or asking for a quick show of hands can easily engage your audience. I also like to stop for questions halfway through the presentation and then provide time for questions at the end as well.

6. Tell a Joke or Two

Presentation doesn’t have to equal stuffy. This is not a research symposium. Be real, have fun with it, and tell a joke or two. Your audience will thank you.

7. Call to Action

Provide a way for your audience to connect with you after the conference to continue the conversation. They may have questions or even ideas for you down the road, and you don’t want to leave them hanging. I still talk with people I’ve met over the years at various conferences.

8. Be an Expert

People didn’t sign up to hear you talk about your insecurities. You need to command authority about your topic, and be an expert in the content. Even if you aren’t 100% sure, the confidence you have will shine through and you will be taken seriously in the eyes of your peers.

What else contributes to a good conference presentation?

What are some of the worst No-No’s you’ve seen presenters do? 

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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