SHAFR Presenter Guide

SHAFR Presenter Guide 2017

SHAFR is a friendly and encouraging society, but it is also a professional organization that desires engaging presentations based on well-argued, quality papers. This guide is meant to help panelists, especially first-time presenters, make the most of the opportunity to share their research at SHAFR meetings.


Sessions last for 1 hour 45 minutes. The time slot for all panels is strictly observed, so organize your presentation to fit the allotted time. Running over your allotted time is not considerate to the other speakers or to the audience. Three-paper panels should allot 15 minutes for each speaker; four-paper panels should limit presentations to 10-12 minutes each. A 15-minute presentation is approximately 1700 words. A 10-12 minute presentation is approximately 1200-1300 words.. It is better to include less information than it is to include too much and have to rush through your material. Presentations, panelists’ remarks, and comments should conclude 30 minutes before the scheduled end of the session to allow for discussion with the audience.

Panelists should send their papers to their chairs and commentators at least two weeks in advance of the conference. Please send only the paper you will be presenting, not the larger work of which it is a part. And please be sure to present the paper itself, both orally and in writing, as a stand-alone piece of scholarship, not as a section of a larger work. Chairs will also need a brief (1-2 page) current CV or biography from each presenter so they can prepare introductory remarks. Chairs should warn presenters if their papers obviously exceed the time allotted.

Note on Photography

SHAFR and the media occasionally record conference sessions for use in broadcast and electronic media. Presenters who do not wish for their session to be recorded may opt out when submitting a proposal to the Program Committee. An audience member who wishes to audiotape or videotape must obtain written permission of panelists. SHAFR is not responsible for unauthorized recording. SHAFR reserves the right to revoke the registration of anyone who records sessions without appropriate permissions.

Structure and Content of Your Presentation

In order to construct an effective presentation, you must begin with an effective paper. Your paper should position your research within a larger historiographical context. Stress your work’s contributions while also fleshing-out its relationship to relevant academic debates, theoretical interventions, and other important texts. Second, your paper should, if possible, demonstrate an awareness of your co-panelists’ research and the content of their presentations. Be sure to link your specific research to the larger themes of the panel. Third, be sure that your thesis and line of argument are clearly stated.

Effective Communication

Remember that oral communication is different from written communication. In a conference presentation, it is best to keep your sentences simple. Be carefully attuned to whether terms, names, and acronyms make sense when spoken aloud. For instance, saying “TIME magazine” in your presentation rather than just “TIME” as you might write in a paper, makes a difference. Be sure that your presentation has a clear structure: it helps to begin by telling the audience what you’re going to tell them and end by telling them what you’ve told them.

Presentations are best if they do not simply involve reading your essay. Take advantage of the conference atmosphere by communicating with your audience. Slow down on complicated or important sentences, pause for effect and emphasis, and make eye contact. Practicing your presentation before the conference will help you relax and ensure effective communication. It will also allow you to gauge whether you are staying within the time limits.

Additional Thoughts

Practice with colleagues in your program, or even in front of a mirror, before coming to the conference.  Be prepared to field a variety of questions regarding your research and the theme of your panel. While at the conference, take advantage of the opportunity to see the many other panels. Note what makes some people successful presenters and learn from what they do well.

Adapted from Annessa Stagner and Shanon Fitzpatrick, University of California, Irvine (2009) and the AHA’s “Information for Speakers,”