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NWA Annual Meeting Presentation Tips

As with any form of communication, there are several items to keep in mind when preparing your presentation:

Analyze your audience – Obviously, you will approach a poster session differently than an oral presentation. Consider the background of your audience and the environment in which you will be presenting. NWA Annual Meeting attendees come from diverse backgrounds: college students and faculty, NOAA and other federal and state agency personnel, private weather corporation personnel, broadcast and other media meteorologists, and weather enthusiasts from across the country (and often a few from other countries).

Identify your message – You summarized your work when you wrote the abstract. Now, identify the most important points in your abstract and use these as the focus of your presentation. Consider relating your material to this year's meeting theme, if possible. The 2018 theme is: Diversity in People, Models, and Methods.

Prepare your draft presentation – Organize and edit your presentation. Be sure to consider how the presentation will flow when viewed from the audience perspective. Also, avoid trying to cram too much information into the presentation and limit text where possible.

Rehearse your presentation – Practice your presentation, including rehearsal, in front of an audience. Some find that taping their presentation and then playing it back provides them with great feedback for improving their stage presence, mannerisms, speaking abilities and content.

Get feedback and revise your presentation – Use your local audience feedback to better target your presentation. The NWA Professional Development Committee Newsletter Article (Preparing and Delivering an Oral Presentation – Part II) has some good tips for planning your presentation that apply equally to oral and poster sessions.

Oral Presentations:

NWA Annual Meeting oral presentations are typically given a 15-minute slot in the agenda. The allocated length was provided in the acceptance e-mail sent to all presenters. The best presentations run about 12 minutes, which leaves the audience time to ask 2 or 3 questions. Presentations should focus on the main points with the goal of creating interest in the presented research and its conclusions. Audience members who have unanswered questions or desire the details of presented work should find presenters after their presentation. Also, remember that the audience for an oral presentation at a conference is usually more diverse than for a peer-reviewed manuscript in a scientific journal. Presenters need to define terms and avoid technical jargon and acronyms specific to their field of expertise.

Presenters should focus on creating PowerPoint slides that are clear, understandable, and sufficiently convey the intended message. Plan to display each slide for 30 seconds to a minute. Complex figures and messages on slides will require more explanation. Slides should be legible from the back of the room by using appropriate fonts and colors. Slides should not be crowded – use bulleted points rather than paragraphs. Graphs and illustrations should be clean and clearly labeled. Presenters should provide some basic explanation of any graph or illustration during the presentation as well as discussing the significance of the data as they guide the audience through their work. Slides should not be read to the audience.

  • Bring the latest version of your presentation to the meeting on a USB flash drive. If your uploaded version needs to be updated, you must bring the USB flash drive with the updated version of your presentation to the NWA Presentation Ready Room no less than three hours before your scheduled presentation time, or the day before if your presentation time is within the first three hours of the next meeting day.
  • NWA program committee volunteers will have Windows laptop computers to project your presentation materials. The laptops will support PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx).
  • The most common technical issue encountered during presentations occurs as a result of having a movie loop embedded within the presentation. If you have a movie in your presentation, test the presentation on another computer before uploading it. When you arrive at the meeting you are strongly urged to test your presentation in the NWA Presentation Ready Room.
  • For PowerPoint presentations, either 16:9 or 4:3 format is acceptable. 16:9 is preferred, but not required.
  • Internet access cannot be guaranteed so presenters should not expect Internet access unless specifically coordinated with the annual meeting program committee. Web-based presentations should be avoided.
  • Each session will have two session chairs to introduce you and assist with fielding questions at the end of your presentation.
  • Please check-in with your session chair as early as possible when you arrive at the meeting facility, but well before your session begins. If you are presenting in the first session of the day, please check-in at least by the end of the last session on the previous day. Your session chair will provide you with further instructions for the session.
  • Presenters should sit near the front of the room. AV volunteer assistants will help with wireless microphone setup ahead of presentation time. For the first presenter in a session, please arrive early to setup and be ready to start on time.
  • The presentation slot is 15 minutes, but one minute must be reserved for introductory remarks by the session chair and a short transition to the next speaker. These times will be strictly enforced. There will be a presentation timer, which will show you how much time you have left in your allotted presentation time. Presenters with scheduled 15-minute time slots will be stopped by the session chair after the allotted 12-minute time slot has expired. At this time, the next speaker's presentation will need to be loaded to keep on schedule.
  • Presenters have a variety of speaking and presentation styles, so there are no specific guidelines for the number of slides your presentation should have.

Poster Session Tips:

On the poster room floor, presenters will have space for a poster with a width of up to 8 feet and a height of 4 feet although most end up slightly smaller due to printer limitations. Fonts and colors are just as important here as for oral presentations. Your title should be readable out to a distance of about 10 feet – a character size of at least 1 inch in a bold dark color should be sufficient. The smallest text and graphics on the poster should be clearly visible at least 4 feet away. The North Carolina State University Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources has developed an excellent web site to help guide you through the process of creating your poster.

  • Your poster number does not need to be printed on your poster
  • You should hand-carry your posters to the meeting or ship posters to the hotel at which you are staying.
  • Posters for the Monday afternoon poster session can be hung up as early as Sunday afternoon and should be in place by the start of the Monday afternoon poster session. Posters should be taken down by 7PM Monday.
  • Posters for the Tuesday poster session can be put up after 7PM Monday and must be taken down by 7PM Tuesday.
  • Thursday posters should be hung after 700 PM EDT Wednesday evening or early in the morning on Thursday and must be taken down by 3PM Thursday.
  • The poster boards will be 8 ft wide and 4 ft high. Most posters are typically smaller than this maximum size because of printer limitations. Most are usually in the 5 ft x 3 ft range.
  • The NWA will provide pins to hang posters.
  • The poster board displays will be arranged by presentation number. Please place posters by the presentation number assigned in the agenda (e.g., if your poster is scheduled as AP-13, please hang it at poster board number 13).
  • In general, more pictures/figures/graphics and less words are preferred for posters. However, some short paragraphs on the poster itself will be very helpful in explaining the poster content.

Poster presenters, remember:

  • This is your time to show off your work and to network with colleagues and, possibly, even potential employers. A poster session is more than a piece of paper; take advantage of the opportunities this type of presentation offers. The poster session allows for more direct communication with those that are truly interested in your work.
  • If you have published your work in your poster in a technical journal, or prepared an extended abstract, please feel free to bring several printed copies to share with people who are interested in your work.
  • You are encouraged to also upload your poster to the NWA Web site so that NWA members unable to attend can see your work. Instructions on how to upload your poster will be available soon.


Presenting scientific results at a meeting is part science, part art, and part salesmanship. There are numerous resources to help you develop these important skills.
Preparing and Delivering an Oral Presentation – Part II from the NWA Professional Development Committee
"Creating Effective Posters" by North Carolina State University Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources
Dazzle 'em with Style page from Ohio State Physics department
Other references can be found on the NWA Professional Development Committee page at

Suggestions for next year's presenters are always welcome at

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