Photo by Xopher Wallace

Top tips for presenters

Dusting off an article I originally wrote a couple of years ago in the run up to the IATEFL Annual Conference. Here are my top tips if you are presenting at the ELT event of the year.

It’s that time again. In just over a week’s time delegates will descend upon Glasgow for one of the biggest events in ELT – the IATEFL Annual Conference. There will be workshops, talks and exhibition stands aplenty – and perhaps you will be one of those lucky enough to present at this highlight of the conference circuit.

Good luck to everyone who is giving a talk, running a workshop or is otherwise going to be involved in proceedings! As someone who has gained a bit of experience (and learnt from that experience…) I’d like to share with you some of my top tips for presenters and presentations. Note that a lot of these tips have arisen from yours truly making all manner of cock-ups, suffering techno mishaps, and generally learning what not to do for things to go smoothly. It’s been a steep learning curve, but if I can do it – anyone can! Without further ado: the tips!


This might be obvious, but it is the first thing you should do. Take a good look at the conference programme beforehand. If you can get a look at a map of the venue, or some photos of your room, so much the better. If your presentation is scheduled during the day try to estimate how far it is from other key locations in the conference venue.

Will you be able to make it to your room in time if you decide to have a drink at the coffee stand just before you start? If you get lost, have you got time to get your bearings? Are you likely to bump into anyone on your way to the room? The answers to these questions are things that may delay you getting to your presentation – and really you should be the first one in the room.


This is as important as where your room is – what is the room like? How big? How much light? How much air? What’s the temperature like? Is the furniture fixed or movable? OK – you might not be able to change any of those factors, but the more you know about the presenting environment, the better you’ll be able to deal with it and perhaps turn it to your advantage.

If you have the opportunity, try to get to see a few sessions that are in the same room as where you’ll present. Seeing the room from the audience’s perspective will give you a better idea of how to work the space and make sure you leave a good impression. I’d advise going to the session just before yours in the same room, so you can maximise your preparation time.

If you decide that you’re going to move the furniture for your session, please be considerate. Leave the room as you would expect to find it. There’s nothing worse as a slightly nervous presenter than finding out that, not only do you have to set up your computer or other presention gear, but that you also have to rearrange the furniture.


I’ve learnt this the hard way. You may have the flashiest presentation and the slickest hardware – but if your laptop doesn’t talk to the projector you may end up having to use the standard machine provided in the room. Make sure you have a Windows-friendly version of everything you want to show off – and that includes presentation files, pictures, audio, video. The last thing you want mid-presentation is to find that ‘Windows Media Player cannot play this file’!


Use this to your advantage. Are you the first session scheduled on a particular day? Wish everyone a nice day at the conference. Are you billed in the middle of the event week? Ask your audience how they are getting on in the warm-up to your talk. Are you just before lunch? Promise you won’t keep your audience from their food!

Are you giving a session a topic that seems to be en vogue and everyone’s talking about it? See if there are other sessions on the same or a similar topic. Try to get to these talks and maybe even slip in a reference in your talk if it’s appropriate. If you are the first person to talk about a particular topic at the conference, perhaps name check a few of the other presentations that are coming. This brings the event to life, helps draw through lines across sessions and links the whole together. And we’re really one big ELT community – it’s nice to support each other!


Delivering a session at a conference can be a great buzz, but more than that it can open doors to possibilities you didn’t even think of – new directions, opportunities, collaboration, even friends are things you could gain from being at a conference and giving a talk or workshop. Be confident in yourself and have a good time!

Obviously, that is a very quick overview of some of the things to consider when presenting. There are many more things to consider – what do you think is important? Do you agree with my thoughts here? Or is there something vital that I’ve missed out?