Just do it: 3 reasons to present at conferences

January 7, 2019
  • Competencies
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
  • Professional Development and Contributions to the Field
  • Professional Well-Being
  • Technology and Transfer
cartoon man presents to a group in front of a black board with the text "AACRAO Rocks" displayed David Johnson, Senior Associate Registrar at the University of Iowa, used to dread public speaking. But he learned it was a fear he could overcome.

“Waiting tables in my college years helped,” Johnson said. “It was a little bit like performance art. Now I actually like public speaking.”

Facing that fear can be an important part of personal and professional growth -- and it can open up new job opportunities and new relationships. Since his first anxious presentation more than fifteen years ago, Johnson has presented dozens of times at regional and national meetings. Over that time, he’s grown more comfortable with the role and more certain of the career value of conference presenting.

Introvert alert

Not entirely sure you're ready to lead a session? Johnson suggests being a co-presenter. 

“It’s a great way to get your feet wet,” he said. “You can contribute a portion of a presentation, and when you’re more comfortable, move on to solo presenting.”

profile (1)Brainstorm, grow, explore
According to Johnson, there are many benefits to presenting, including: 

1. It’s collaborative problem-solving.  
“It’s a nice experience to be up there; you’ll be surprised how many people will come up to you after the presentation and ask your advice on something or offer advice on how to do it better or think about things you didn’t think about before,” Johnson said. “It’s a great way to get other professionals’ perspectives on your process.”

“It’s more than networking -- it’s collaboration,” he added. “You present your ideas and talk about how they could be customized to help other campuses, and you take back ideas from other institutions to see how you can make them work for you. It’s a win-win.”

You don’t have to be an expert; you can simply share a common problem and a solution that has worked on your campus. It can be about a simple process that has impacted your day-to-day workflow.

“My presentations are really nerdy,” Johnson said. For example, his first presentation was about how he automated a process by writing a program that indexed thousands of PDFs to a student record. “I enjoy building solutions to make people’s jobs easier, and I like to talk with others who do the same thing.”

2. Presenting pads your resume.
Conference attendance serves to professionalize the office, and presenting at conferences takes it one step further.

“If you’re trying to move up the career step-ladder, having a presentation under your belt is helpful,” Johnson said. “It’s also a cost-effective investment in terms of staff education and what people bring back to campus.”

Additionally, being on campus committees and seeking out professional training [LINK] are great professional development resources, he added. (Check out other AACRAO professional development opportunities here.) [LINK]

“Having staff in professional organizations reflects well on the university, and being involved on campus reflects well on the office,” Johnson said.

3. You get to travel more.
“Another great benefit to giving presentations at various conferences is you get to go places you wouldn’t normally get to go,” Johnson said. “If your office has a limited travel budget, having a presentation accepted will work in your favor to justify attending a conference.”

Conference presenting offers more than professional development, but also personal and institutional benefits as well. For example, Johnson tries to finds time during the conference to explore the cultural side of the city he’s visiting -- particularly historical sites or art museums. 

Ready to submit a presentation of your own? Session proposals are being accepted now for the 2019 AACRAO Technology & Transfer Conference
, July 14-16 in Las Vegas.

Another option: Try a trial-size presentation. https://www.aacrao.org/resources/newsletters-blogs/aacrao-connect/article/present-a-poster-session-at-aacrao-2019-in-los-angeles


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