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Barbara Jordan
Mar 15, 2011

Dear ACA Blog Readers

Usually my blog posts are focused on providing you with practical suggestions on various topics such as clinical supervision, work-life balance, stress/time management, leadership development, and self-care for people in the helping professions. Today, however, I am asking the ACA blogging community (both readers and writers) for their most valuable insights regarding presenting a paper at a conference. For the first time, I will be presenting a paper at the International Counselors Association in Jamaica in June. I've presented several workshops and seminars, but I never presented a research paper. So, I am asking you for your best advice. What works? What will my critics look for in my paper, my presentation, and in my research design?

My paper will likely review the current literature on the topic of career advancement, vocational success, and leadership development for leaders with ADD traits. To begin, I'd like to share what I have already learned from various people in my network. Here is what I've learned thus far regarding the paper:
•In the introduction, state the purpose of the study. Choose a theme or question that represents a segment of the latest debates in the field.
•In the body, demonstrate your knowledge of the topic and its importance.
•List any major issues and key research points.
•Identify the variables and explain any boundaries of the study.
•Spell out clearly for the reader what the paper is about and what you did.
•Indicate the question you are exploring and its importance
•Have a sound research design. Anticipate possible critiques when setting up your research design.
•Label the sections of the paper
•Include a summary of your findings.
•In your conclusion, repeat the question posed then explain how you addressed the question and why the question is relevant. End with a statement regarding the implications of your question.
•Present an annotated bibliography describing the main significance of each source for the paper and a list of further sources.
Regarding the presentation:
•Because you have limited time, avoid complicated arguments. Make only a few points and make them clearly.
•Rather than read your entire paper word-for-word, give the highlights, an outline, or just the results.
•Regarding a poster, handouts, or PowerPoint, less is often more. Don't clutter it up with too much information. Give people something to read, but keep it as basic as possible. If you present too much information on the screen, you will lose your audience. Give them a reason to pay attention to you.
•Write/speak with the active voice. Use short, simple sentences.
•Use connective words as you speak (however, therefore, first, second, finally).
•Use metaphors and analogies to help the audience better understand your concepts.
•Interact with the audience; look them in the eye and speak directly to them.
•Practice, Practice, Practice
•Breathe and remain calm. Talk slowly, take your time, and relax.
•Smile, enjoy yourself, and be animated; show your passion in your subject to keep your audience's attention.
•Take only two minutes per page, no more than twelve pages; resist the temptation to read really fast to make up for the fact that your paper is too long.
•Respect/honor your time limit; indicate that you are aware when you have hit the time limit; and reassure your audience that you are wrapping it up.

As you can see, I've already learned alot about presenting a paper at a conference. But, if any of you have other suggestions, please share them in the comments section of this blog. I want to be as successful as possible. Thanks in advance!

Barbara Jordan is a counselor, counselor educator, author, trainer, and leadership coach. For more information go to

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