Presenting Your Geology Work

Where do you want to present your research? The Geological Society of America (GSA) annual meeting is a great place for undergraduate students to get their professional start. But numerous other conferences are available as well including the National Council on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) and the Rocky Mountain Region Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America. Talk to your professor and let them know you are getting ready for this important step in your geology career.

Here are some of the best options for your presentation:

Timing is everything. Each conference provides a web site that explains the steps required to present as well as rules and requirements for your presentation. Review the timeline provided and work backwards to ensure that you are ready. Remember that you need to complete your research before you submit your abstract so if you want to present during your senior year, it won’t hurt to start preparing for your conference early in your Junior year.

  • Submit your abstract. Follow the instructions provided on the conference web site including submitting any fees required. A suggested format for developing your abstract has been provided on this web site for your convenience, but be sure to review your abstract with your research advisor before submitting it to conference.
  • Make contacts with potential graduate advisors and employers. Conferences are a great place to network. Write to possible professional contacts and ask if they might have time during the conference to meet with you and discuss your research or future opportunities with them.
  • Get accepted and plan your travel!
    • Register EARLY!!! The earlier you register the lower the costs.
    • Book your hotel and transportation early.
      • Are any other geology majors traveling to the same conference? Work together to save money by sharing rooms and transportation.
      • If you are flying, be sure to arrive a day in advance just in case of delays or canceled flights, particularly in winter.
      • Most hotels offer a cancellation policy. Often you can book a cheap hotel early, and if for any reason you need to make changes 30 days or more in advance you can do so without a fee.
      • Make sure that your conference is easily accessible from your hotel. Many conferences offer free transportation from a specified list of hotels to the conference center. Better yet, reserve a hotel within walking distance!
    • Get funding; you don’t have to pay for everything on your own if you know where to look. Ask your professor about funding opportunities.
      • Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Program (UGRASP)—abstract fee, registration fees, and travel
      • Geologic Society of America Rocky Mountain Region—general funding
      • Southern Utah University Student Association (SUUSA)—group travel
      • Honors Students—per diem allowances for food while you travel
    • Prepare your poster
      • When do you have to submit your poster for printing to ensure that you can pick it up before traveling? Backup your presentation on a flash drive just to be safe.
      • Do you have a poster tube to transport your poster?
      • What will you wear? Talk to your professors to be sure you are not under or over dressed for the conference.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Use every opportunity you have to practice presenting you poster or giving your presentation. Often the geology department will provide a practice night before the big conference. Better yet, practice by presenting your freshman or sophomore research projects at SUU’s conference opportunities offered each year: the Walter Maxwell Gibson College of Science and Engineering annual symposium (fall) and the Festival of Excellence (spring). Another opportunity includes the Utah Council on Undergraduate Research (UCUR) annual conference,
  • What to do when you get there?
    • Register
    • Walk around and get to know your surroundings, where will you be presenting?
    • What time do you need to put up your poster or download your presentation?
  • Get comfortable and have fun! This is a great opportunity to get to know your future peers and network for your future. You made it; you’re a geologist now!

Writing Your Abstract

  • Introduction, one sentence. Be broad and set the context for your research. Why does your research matter?
  • Purpose/objective, one sentence. Be specific and provide details.
  • Hypothesis, one sentence. Include quantitative and qualitative metrics for analysis.
  • Methods, a couple of sentences.
  • Results, a couple of sentences. Provide quantitative metrics where possible.
  • Conclusion, a couple of sentences. Work from your broad context to the specific importance of your results.

Designing a Successful Poster

  • Size restrictions. Check your conference web site to make sure that your poster is the right size. SUU’s printers offer a maximum width 42 inches.
  • Format requirements. Check your conference web site to make sure that you have included the required information at the required size. Some conferences require a specific title size, abstracts, and/or format. Typical content sections include: introduction, hypothesis, methods, results, discussion, abstract if required, acknowledgements, and references.
  • Microsoft Power Point is a standard program used to create posters and is accepted by the SUU print office.
  • Choose an appropriate background for your poster. One that provides context but does not distract from your content.
  • Fonts matter! People need to be able to read your poster while standing from 3-5 feet back. Use the example font styles and scales provided below for reference. It is best to choose just two or three font styles for your poster.
  • Don’t forget to include appropriate logos: SUU, UGRASP, Forest Service, etc. Let your audience know that your research is supported!
  • Figures, figures, figures! Remember a figure or photo is worth a thousands words. Get rid of as much text as possible.
  • Results are often depicted in charts. Include images on either end of your axes to indicate trends. For example if your axis depicts leaf size, include a small image of a leaf at the small end of the axis and a large leaf at the opposite end of the axis.
  • Acknowledgements. Don’t forget to acknowledge those you helped you in the field, provided funding or those who provided significant insights into your research.
  • Create your own SUU business cards and be sure to leave them with your poster when you are not there. This way interested parties can contact you to discuss your research.

Font Scale Examples

Titles and headings should be written in sans-serif fonts (few embellishments). Serif fonts are good for text, which include embellishments to create flow.

Making Your Presentation Great

  • Design your message before you start creating your slides
    • Where is your talk going? What is the quick take-away message?
    • How do you get there in less than 1 slide per minute of actual presentation time?
    • Have you organized your information in a way that tells the story of your research?
    • Keep it simple! You are the expert and your general audience needs basic context.
  • Remember, a figure or photo is worth a thousands words. Animations are even better!
  • Less text! Do not use sentences on your slides with the exception of figure descriptions.
  • Your last slide should say “Thank you” which will allow your audience to clap for you. The moderator will ask your audience if there are any questions at the end of your presentation.