Conference 101: What Happens, What to Do, How to Do it Well

What Happens

Conferences are almost always made up of a series of sessions

Sessions are either plenary 
(everyone meets together) or
(small groups meet to focus on topics).  

The image at right shows a typical day:



What to Do

Conferences rely on three groups of people:


The presenters
The volunteers (including moderators)
The all-important audience.

What you do is take on one of those roles, or maybe more than one, and do it well..

How to Do It Well


This video below covers all possible cases: oral and poster presentations, individual and group presentations, and presentation of research at various states of completion. It was created for the IVC/SC Student Research Symposium, but the information will be helpful to all of them.

Presenting your research

To  become a presenter, you submit an "abstract" of your research. (Writing an abstract is a valuable skill; Honors English Composition and Humanities courses cover it, and many Saddleback courses with research components cover it too, but it's quite likely you haven't encountered the term before. If you want to be sure what writing one entails in this context, visit Abstracts 101.)

Not all conferences are the same, but the flowchart below shows a typical application process:

[click to enlarge]

Some students will be giving oral presentations, and others will be presenting via a poster in a poster session. The three brief videos below (each under three minutes) will give you an idea of how best to do this. Presenters will also have a chance to rehearse their presentations with Saddleback faculty.


Two of our conferences -- the IVC/SC Student Research Symposium and the HTCC Building Bridges Conference -- accept student volunteers. Most volunteers are involved in what is the best experience-building job: "moderating" a breakout session.

"Moderating" doesn't mean you have to keep the peace between competing researchers. It means, at bottom, that you have to "herd the cats": Introduce the presenters, watch the time for them, call on people at Q&A time, and signal other volunteers for help if needed (non-working computer, locked room, etc.) and -- probably most important -- smile reassuringly at nervous presenters.

The brief video below (1:45) shows you the process. The last slide shows you where you can find hardcopy directions. The Saddleback URL provides signup directions to November's IVC-SC Student Research Symposium; the HTCCA URL, is for the Building Bridges conference in March. The duties are almost the same, but the conferences do start and end at different times!  

how to be a moderator



You get the easiest job, and it's a very enjoyable one. You'll also find it rewarding, although in different ways than volunteering and presenting are.

You get to find out what people at other schools and in other classrooms are doing in subjects you find interesting. You get to learn what to do in your own future presentations. (Sometimes you get to learn what to avoid doing in a presentation.) You get to let the presenters know that what they did was worth doing and worth sharing.
How do you do this job well? Be on time. Don't leave between presentations once a breakout has started. Smile. Ask questions. Applaud. Be the person you would want to see in your audience . . . maybe next year.