Q&A with undergraduate team members Katrise DeLeon and Shannon Sullivan regarding their experience at the Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Society of the Southwest, where they presented some of our research. Watch or read below!
Q: Was this your first time presenting at a professional conference?
Shannon: Yes, this was my first time presenting at a professional conference.
Katriese: Yes! Hopefully the first of many.
Q: How did you get ready for the presentation? What was your process of practicing for the presentation like? How long did it take, was there any information you had to try to learn, etc.?
Shannon: Since we had a lot of practice meetings, I began preparing for the presentation a little over a week before we presented. I read over the slides a few times and then presented it mostly to myself. I think we then practiced as a group on zoom two times, which really helped because it gave me an idea of what to expect from an online presentation format. It also helped me gain confidence in my knowledge of the material on the presentation, which I think became more apparent to me each time I practiced. There wasn’t much new information I had to learn, since it all relates back to the data collection and the other presentations we have been doing since last year.
Katriese: My preparation was very similar to Shannon’s! I will say, though, that I discovered the value of annotation throughout this process. I found it extremely helpful to mark up my copy of the presentation to remind myself about anything from taking a pause and a deep breath to including an extra clarification or commentary on the content. I also second that the practice sessions were especially valuable in building confidence! While doing my first run-through with an audience, all I could think was “You’re going too fast. You need to speak more clearly.” I was reassured, though, when the team members affirmed that the information was clear and understandable.
Q: Did you get many questions during the presentation? What was the process of taking questions like?
We got a few great questions! Since the audience members had to type their comments into a chat feature, (we could not hear their voices or see their faces), it was hard to “read on the room.” We thought- Did they like our presentation? Were they paying attention at all? Were they confused at parts? If we did not constantly check the chat, we were missing what people were typing. However, I believe we received three or four questions in the chat. Since the conference was specific to linguistics, there were no questions about the basics of our presentation, which made them more suitable for Rebeka to answer. However, it was nice to be able to hear how she answered the questions because at the same time we were thinking about how we would answer the questions.
Q: How was presenting at a research conference as an undergraduate student different than you expected?
Shannon: It was not too different than I expected, especially since I have heard our undergrad classmates in Our Voices talk about previous conferences. We also discussed beforehand how we would not be able to see any audience members and we played around with the online format. However, I think the biggest shock was all of the thought provoking, thorough questions after we presented! I knew that the audience asked questions after your research, but in my experience undergrads do not ask very many questions. When presenting in class, it is very rare that a classmate will ask you something about your presentation and even in class in general. Also, I think the diction you have to use and way of interacting with people is much more professional, which is not something I have much experience with. Most jobs I have had or classes I have taken have been with a younger population. This was not so much unexpected as something to keep in mind.
Katriese: I didn’t have many expectations about how the conference and presentation would go, since my only point of reference was listening and providing feedback to our group members as they prepared for another conference called OSUCHiLL last semester. On a personal note, I normally get quite nervous when speaking in front of an audience to the point that I can feel my heartbeat speeding up in my chest, but in the online format I felt much more at ease than I expected. This might be because I had presented through Zoom previously and I was able to tune in from the comfort of my apartment.
Q: How do you think that the virtual format of the conference influenced your experience?
Shannon: The virtual format was in some ways comforting and in some ways difficult. On one hand, I was in the comfort of my home sitting at my desk that I sit at every day. We also could not see anyone in the audience. Overall, however, I found the experience to be technically challenging. I was having a hard time finding how to get into the room where we were going to present and my computer kept saying that my microphone wasn’t working. Then, the “share slides” feature would not work but the copy of the slides that Katriese and I had contained writing on them so we could not immediately show ours. I had to present some slides without the audience being able to see them, so I tried to remember to go slow and explain everything without panicking! This made the experience frustrating from a technical level, yet more comforting since I did not have to worry about being in front of a bigger audience. I hope to have more of the in-person experience in the future, but it is also great to practice for online presentations, since I think that this is the way the world is heading for a while.
Katirese: The technical difficulties that Shannon mentioned definitely affected my performance and how I viewed the experience. It was obviously disappointing to have unexpected issues that were out of our control, but I’m also grateful to have been in a situation where we needed to adapt and improvise. This experience taught me not only how to deal with these stressful hiccups, but also to relax a little more when presenting and to put less pressure on things turning out perfectly. Despite the unfamiliar format of the conference platform, we were able to share our findings and engage meaningfully with the attendees.
Q: What advice would you give to other undergraduate students who might be presenting at a research conference in the future?
Shannon: Be confident in yourself! You may think that you do not know quite as much as other people since you have less experience, but you know your material and research well. Ultimately, nobody cares whether you are an undergraduate or not, what they care most is listening and learning from your presentation. In order to have good confidence, I would recommend reviewing your presentation again and again, both to yourself and to anyone who will listen. Think about questions that people might ask and take a couple deep breaths before presenting!
Katriese: First, I would like to echo Shannon’s advice to practice speaking clearly and confidently! Speaking as a bit of a perfectionist, I also think it’s important to put the presentation in perspective and, like I mentioned earlier, avoid fixating on how everything needs to be exactly right. Instead, try to focus on what’s really important: sharing your message with the audience. It’s okay if some aspects of your presentation are not perfect, because as long as you clearly and accurately communicate the main points of your presentation, you have succeeded!
Q: How has the experience at LASSO contributed to your academic, professional and/or personal development?
Shannon: While my path after schooling might not take me specifically to linguistics and second language acquisition conferences, I plan on becoming a middle school or high school teacher. Any experience that I can get explaining material, answering questions, and using a good presenter voice to an audience is an experience that I can use as a future educator. While the audience of a professional conference and high school students may be very different, the idea of clearly and efficiently communicating information and interacting with others is the same. Also, having the chance to branch out into professional experiences can only aid in one’s development. In my mind, it is better to gain experience now than to be blindsided in the future by a more professional world. Also, it’s really exciting to delve into a topic you are interested in!
Katriese: Since I study linguistics and Spanish, I often find myself watching and reading about presentations similar to ours. I have been able to present in a handful of my OSU classes, but I think that this experience was a great introduction to the wider world of academics that exists outside of the classroom. It was also great to practice formulating how to communicate specific points to an audience with a wide range of experience with the topic. I appreciate that Dr. Campos-Astorkiza allowed us to adapt the presentation to our own voices and use our own wording while also being sure to help us present the information as accurately as possible. If presented with future opportunities to work on and share original research, I’ll be able to cite our experience at LASSO as a time when I was able to learn how conferences operate and practice problem-solving in this specific environment.