With jitteriness in my hands and a tremor in my voice, I took to the podium to give my first presentation at an international conference. My head was swarmed with tips I gathered over the years on good presentation skills: maintain an eye contact with the audience, avoid a monotonous voice, stick to the time allocated for your presentation, do not jiggle with the pointer and use it wisely, and lastly, try to relax.
The location was Beirut, Lebanon and the audience comprised of members of the American University of Beirut community, the organizers of the conference, and other speakers from all over the Arab Region. With a grateful prayer that the hall was not fully packed with viewers, I started my speech on ‘Perspectives of the Egyptian Chairs of Research Ethics Committees regarding barriers that affect proper functioning’.
Though I was conscious of the time restriction (which was 10 minutes), I was shocked to view the one minute notice held up by the conference coordinator while I was still halfway through my results. Thinking fast and furious, I decided to skip a couple of slides presenting the results on informed consent and assigned the remaining of my time to the conclusion, limitations of the study, future plans for the study.
There are few lessons I learned, which I believe are worth sharing: by far the most important was the value of rehearsing and being prepared. Much of stage fright and speech anxiety can be contributed to ill preparation and not being fully acquainted to your topic.
The significance of constructive feedback was the second most important lesson I learned during the endeavor. In fact, the comments and suggestions made by MERETI members during the rehearsal the prior evening prompted me to change the presentation content and style altogether. In addition, maintaining a professional aptitude by abiding to the time allocated to me, being able to think on the spot and accepting criticism, was equally valuable. I can truly say I am looking forward to my next conference presentation.