present their ideas and work at a conference. Most students will get their feet wet by presenting at a conference hosted by their university, others may have the opportunity to travel to present at regional or national event. Regardless of where the event occurs, this is one of the first opportunities students get to showcase their abilities and their research to a wider audience, network with peers, and socialize with others who share in their interests. It is important that they prepare the material in advance, correct their mechanical errors and practice delivering the speech. The writing center can be a one-stop shop for the student who is preparing to join their peers in the greater world of scholarship.
Students come into our writing center most often to work on their regular assignments. But a large part of what we do can also help them succeed in the conference arena as well. We can do this in a three-fold manner. In this posting, I focus on presentations that have a paper, but the writing center services can cover other types of presentations as well, for instance reviewing poster board presentations for errors before going to the printer.
First, we help students correct the mechanical errors in the paper itself. Students who bring their papers to the writing center have fewer errors and will receive more praise for their work. No one wants to give a presentation and see a glaring grammar error on the page. Yikes! A trip to the writing center would help to catch those beforehand. We can also act as a sounding board for the student who may have lingering problem areas in their arguments or reasoning that “real audiences” may have too.
Second, we help them prepare their material by offering advice on what has worked for us in the past, and ideas we have seen that worked. I remember when Prezi first came into the classroom. The first student who used it got praise from everyone – not necessarily for the content – but for the new idea. When asked where she heard about it, she told her peers that one of the tutors in the writing center had told her it might be a good idea to try it. The writing center can be a haven of ideas, a place where creativity in writing and presentations are always present and focused on.
Lastly, the all-important rehearsal session. In our writing center, we ask the students to read their papers aloud. We do this so that they can hear the words they are reading on the page – because research has shown that when our brains process the information in a new way, it makes it easier to spot errors. But this is also a chance for students to run through their presentation for all the other speech-related skills like volume, pacing, posture, etc. They can do this in a more intimate environment in order to prepare for the big speech. Presenters who have attended many events will tell you the most important thing they did before the conference was to practice, in front of a live audience.
Student conferences are huge opportunities and milestones for new academics, and we need to let more students know that the services of the writing center extend beyond the classroom paper. We can reach out to professors who mentor students, to let them know that the writing center can, and will, help students ensure the project proceeds more smoothly, and their research shines.
Texas Woman’s University
02 February 2016