Below we have compiled some information for first-time conference attendees that you might find useful.

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What is undergraduate research?

From the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) website:

“An inquiry or investigation conducted by an undergraduate student that makes an original intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline.”

What is NCUR?

From the CUR website:

“This gathering of student scholars welcomes presenters from all institutions of higher learning and from all corners of the academic curriculum. Through this annual conference, NCUR creates a unique environment for the celebration and promotion of undergraduate student achievement; provides models of exemplary research, scholarship, and creative activity; and helps to improve the state of undergraduate education.”

  • Why attend NCUR?
    • Let others know about your findings
    • Learn about cutting-edge research (findings are often presented before they are published)
    • Network with other scholars
    • Great overall learning opportunity
    • Improved presentation skills
    • Improved self-confidence
    • Better prepared for graduate school
    • In one study, 94% of students surveyed about their conference participation rated the experience as “life changing or positive,” and none reported a negative experience (Mabrouk, 2009, p. 1339)
  • Types of Presentations at NCUR
    • Plenary or Keynote
      • Nothing else scheduled during this session
      • Everyone is expected to attend
        • A speaker presents on big ideas
  • Poster Session
    • Informal, more opportunity to talk one-on-one with attendees
    • Presenters stand next to their poster, and attendees walk through the aisles, stopping at posters they find interesting
    • Presenters prepare a brief (2-3 min) synopsis of their poster
    • Presenters should be prepared for questions; attendees are welcome to ask questions about the research
  • Oral Presentation
    • Often called “concurrent” sessions because there are multiple sessions during the time period
    • The presenter gives a 15-minute presentation to a room of people
    • The room is technology-enhanced or a “smart” classroom
    • A Moderator will stop the presenter after 15 minutes and facilitate 5 minutes of Q and A
    • Speakers usually use PowerPoint or Prezi
    • Attendees feel free to ask questions about the research
  • Visual Arts Presentations
    • Work is highlighted in an exhibition
    • Presenters deliver a lecture accompanied by slides of images (see Oral Presentation above)
  • Performing Arts Presentations
    • May be an original musical composition or arrangement or musical, dance, or theatrical performance, or film which includes up to 15 minutes of performance or showing of the work followed by a 5-minute Q and A session.
    • A lecture recital, music research and analysis, presentations on arts and society, or research on the history of theatre or film follow the standard NCUR format.

Preconference: What should you do before the conference?

  • Register for NCUR
  • Presenters must register for NCUR
  • Log in to the NCUR 2020 Portal Login
  • Follow the prompts
  • Find Funding
    • Check with your faculty mentor
    • Check with your department/college
    • Check with your discipline or CUR
    • Check with the Office of Undergraduate Research at your school
    • Check with an affiliated Registered Student Organization
  • If NCUR is far from home for you, plan the cost of transportation, hotel, and meals for the length of your stay.
  • What are you most likely to forget to pack?
    • Presentation saved in a minimum of two places
      • Flash drive
      • Emailed to yourself
      • Dropbox
      • OneDrive
      • Laptop
  • Handouts of your poster (optional)
  • The actual poster (use a tube if using a paper poster or pack it if using a fabric poster)
  • Notebook/pen
  • Business cards if you have them
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Chargers (phone, laptop, iPod, iPad)
  • Breath mints
  • If you do not plan to wear comfortable shoes, bring first aid for the blisters
  • Check out the program before arriving at the conference – make note of the sessions you want to attend so you have a plan
    • Download the NCUR 2020 App (available March 1) to help you stay organized
    • Write down your presentation details in case your phone dies
    • Consider attending the Graduate School Fair during NCUR
      • 100 tables with graduate representatives from all around the country
  • Have one or more goals for the conference, and consider planning a career goal– make sure your NCUR plan addresses the goals. For example:
    • Learn more about a particular topic or topics
    • Learn more about how to make a good presentation or poster
    • Network with people from a particular school where you are applying for grad school
    • Bond more with others from your own institution who are also attending the conference
  • Wardrobe depends on weather of locations and special request of attire. Generally, if there is no special attire requested dress business professional. You will see a LOT of variability in how people dress.
    • Some disciplines (e.g., business) tend to dress more formally at conferences than other disciplines (e.g., many of the sciences)
      • A suit may be too formal
      • Shorts and a t-shirt are too casual
    • Consider wearing light layers – many conference meeting spaces are cold with no way to adjust the temperature
    • Wear comfortable shoes
    • Wear what makes you feel confident and comfortable
  • Check conference emails and program for information that is relevant to your presentation
    • What time is your presentation?
    • At what time should you be there to set up?
    • Factor in how long will it take to get there, locate the building, locate the room where you are presenting, and load your presentation on the computer.
  • Remember to have fun and make the most of your conference experience!

During the Conference

For all attendees: Attending sessions

  • Arrive early enough to register and/or pick up your swag.
  • If there are two or more sessions going on at the same time, choose the session that best applies to you.
  • If you have a friend, the two of you can split up, go to different sessions, and debrief afterwards.
  • Be polite
    • Coming late/leaving early can be distracting. If you must arrive late or leave a session early, wait for the break between presenters.
    • Phones/sleeping/talking let the speaker know you are not interested in what they have to say and may be distracting to presenters.
      • Wait to tweet or post about the conference between sessions.
      • Plan to take notes during sessions with paper and pen instead of your phone.
  • Remember, you are representing your mentors, department, and university
  • Ask questions if you have them
    • It can be awkward for presenters when no one has a question
    • You could make a comment about something you found interesting if no one has a question
  • Force yourself to talk to new people – for example:
    • A speaker
    • Someone in a session sitting near you or who asked a good question
    • People at meals
    • People you meet at a poster session
    • Others who seem lonely
  • Meet and greet people with a handshake, smile, and good eye contact
  • Create a plan for organizing information for the contacts you make


  • Often happens informally
    • Make nighttime plans with new people
    • Take in local activities with a few others
    • Participate in conference social events like the Open Houses on Thursday evening and the Friday Night at The Museum on Friday evening.
  • Be prepared with a few “elevator speeches” about your research, about your future plans, about your school, etc.
  • People like to talk about themselves – ask them questions rather than doing all the talking.
  • Avoid gossiping about others and excessive negativity.
  • Avoid alcohol if you are underage; drink in moderation if you are over age.
  • If you behave inappropriately, other people will find out about it.
  • Take time to recharge – burnout at conferences is common.

Social Media?

  • Conferences often have a hash tag associated with them - ours is #NCUR2020.
  • Engaging with social media can be a great way to get noticed – conference organizers might retweet you, & you will likely gain followers. Plus, the best social media posts will be shown during the conference on the Social Wall in the mobile app and on the big screen before plenaries.
  • Keep it professional and positive - do not use Twitter to publicly complain about the conference or presenters.
  • Avoid tweeting photos of other people’s slides or posters without permission - some presenters may not want that information public.

Additional considerations for presenters: Arrive early!

  • Arrive early enough to set up, do a last-minute review of your notes, and calm any jitters.
  • Fill your NCUR 2020 reusable mug with water in case you need it during your presentation.
  • Keep a watch to help you stay aware of the time.
  • If you make a mistake or get nervous during your presentation, try to slow down, take a couple of deep breaths, and take a minute to gather your thoughts.
  • Childcare is not provided at NCUR conferences.  There are several drop-in daycares in the Bozeman area, such as Dino Drop-in Daycare, should you need childcare.  Please also note children can attend sessions so long as they are with a parent/guardian and are well behaved.

After the Conference

  • Follow up on getting your reimbursements if you received funding for your trip.
  • Follow up soon with people if you said you would (e.g., email a copy of your poster).
  • Either during or right after a conference, write down what you learned, what you want to remember, ideas to follow up on, etc. 
  • Put the presentation on your vita/resume.

Poster Presentations

What is a poster session?

The purpose of a poster session is to give conference attendees an opportunity to view lots of different research project descriptions in a short period of time. It’s also an opportunity for presenters to interact one-on-one with many different attendees, which allows for in-depth discussions and possible future contacts. Many researchers use poster sessions as an opportunity to get feedback on a project before publishing it. At a poster session, you will be promoting both yourself as well as your department, college, and university. 

What will happen during a poster session at NCUR?

All poster sessions will take place in the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse on the East Side of the Fieldhouse Floor. Poster presentations are paper displays that must be prepared in advance. They may not include exhibits of models, devices or computer programs. The NCUR poster session consists of kiosks with three sides. Presenters stand next to their posters and attendees walk around the session, stopping at posters that interest them. Presenters should be ready to give a quick (2-3 minute) summary of their poster and should be ready to answer questions about the project.

Although not required, it is nice to have one-page copies of your poster to hand out to attendees. Alternatively, you may create a sign-up sheet and email your poster to those who are interested.

What are the components of a conference poster?

A poster conveys your study on one big sheet of paper. The components vary depending on your discipline as well as the type of project, but here are some of the typical elements:

Title and Authors

  • Remember to use a big font that can be seen at a distance (70-80 point font at minimum).
  • The title should be the same as the one you submitted with your NCUR proposal.


  • Write out your institution’s name, or you can download your institution’s logo.
  • You can use an additional logo depicting your department or college if you have one.

Introduction/Background/Literature Review

  • Lead the reader into your particular study or project.
  • Include citations from past research.
  • How does your study make a unique contribution to the literature?
  • Present a research question or hypotheses.


  • Who or what represents your sample?
    • If you used people or animals, how many?
    • Can you provide some information about your sample (e.g., demographic information like gender, age, etc.)?
  • What was the methodology and procedure of your study?
  • Describe study materials such as survey questions, observations, interviews, etc. 


  • What were the main results of your study?
  • Graphs and charts are more visually appealing than words.


  • What is the main take-home message of your study?
  • Provide an explanation for the results.
  • Connect your results to past research on this topic.
  • What are the limitations of your research?
  • What are some future research ideas that stem from your study?
  • What are the implications/applications of your study for broader society?


  • Cite only the references you used in your poster, not everything you read over the course of doing your research.
  • Use the citation style for your discipline (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).
  • You can include this information on the back of your poster handout if you run out of space on the actual poster.


  • In this section, cite individuals who aren't authors but who contributed in some way (if applicable). 
  • You should also acknowledge any financial help you received as part of this research (e.g., grants). 

Contact Information

  • Include your email on the poster so that if attendees have any questions, they can contact you.

What does an effective poster look like?

  • It has an eye-catching title that is the same one listed in the NCUR program.
  • It is organized logically.
  • It is concise (bullets and numbering are good).
  • It can be understood on its own without needing a lot of extra explanation from the author.
  • It does not have any grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors.
  • It has big font:
    • Title: ~72-point font
    • Section Headers: ~60-point font
    • Text: At least 32-point font
    • Don’t forget the axes on graphs - that font needs to be big too. 
  • The font is consistent throughout the poster, easy to read (serif styles like Times New Roman), and professional (avoid comic sans!).
  • It contains high-resolution graphics (charts, photos, images).
    • Images pulled from the Internet are often fuzzy when blown up on a poster (and may be copyrighted as well). 
  • It uses a clean, consistent layout with some white space available.
  • It uses non-distracting colors and backgrounds (avoid a dark background, which uses an enormous amount of ink to print).

How do I make and print my poster?

Montana State University has three options for printing posters during the conference. University Printing is located in the lower level of Culbertson Hall.  Send your poster file to ahead of time and pick it up when you arrive.  Other poster printing options are Blank Canvas, located in the basement of the Strand Union Building on campus and FedEx, located at 1013 W College Street, just north of campus.  Printing at all locations will be handled on a first-come, first-serve basis and we cannot guarantee last minute availability.  

Printing will be handled on a first-come, first-serve basis, and we cannot guarantee availability of the poster printers. On average,  posters cost about $30 to print. 

What should you do as a poster presenter?

  • Consider printing your poster at least one week in advance of NCUR in case you find errors and need to print it again.
  • If you have a paper poster, consider using a travel tube to protect it during your travel, or print it on fabric that you can easily pack in your suitcase.
  • Wear comfortable shoes because you will be standing for your entire session.
  • At least one author should be near the poster during the allotted session.
  • Smile and greet people as they approach your poster.
  • Let them take the lead (some people prefer to read; others prefer to talk to you).
  • If there are multiple presenters for a single poster:
    • Make sure that you and your co-authors are not blocking the poster or the walkway.
    • Do not get distracted by side conversations with your co-authors. Remember, your goal is to talk to other attendees about your research.
    • Take turns answering questions and explaining your poster. You may even want to switch presenting (i.e., only one co-author stands by the poster for a given period of time).

Poster Hanging 

  • Each presenter is provided with one side of a freestanding fabric display board measuring 46"w x 40"h. 
  • Presenters should arrive approximately 15 minutes before their presentation time to find their assigned location and hang their posters.
  • Posters should be taken down immediately following the assigned session. 
  • NCUR 2020 will provide Velcro to attach materials to the display board. Pins, clips, or any other method for hanging posters will not be allowed. 
  • Presenters must be available to discuss their displays during their assigned session. 
  • Posters must be readable from at least three feet away.

Please contact if you have questions.


Here a few good online resources for making research posters:

Oral Presentations

What is the purpose of an oral presentation?

The purpose of an oral presentation is to share your research with an audience. It is typically a synopsis of your research. If you've conducted a study, you will probably address the following topics:

  • Background research on your topic (with citations to past studies)
  • The rationale for your study (how does your study address a gap in the literature?)
  • Hypotheses/research questions
  • Methodology
  • Results (graphs are more interesting than tables or words)
  • Conclusions (for example, the implications or applications of your research, limitations, future research directions, a concise summary of your main findings, concluding thoughts)
  • References and Acknowledgements (such as grant support, a faculty advisor if he/she is not an author on the presentation, assistance from others who are not listed as authors)

If your scholarship is in a different form (e.g., a film analysis, a presentation of a creative work), the structure will likely be a little different, but in all cases, it should be clear to the audience what the main goals of your research are, why it's important to do this work, and what you found in your research.  

Oral presentations at NCUR are 15 minutes in length with five additional minutes allotted to each presenter for questions. A moderator will be there to facilitate timely presentations and the Q and A session. Presenters will not be allowed to go over their allotted time. Oral presentations are held in technology-enhanced, or "smart" classrooms. The typical smart classroom has a computer, projector, projection screen, sound system, and podium with AV controls and laptop connections. Some specialized classrooms have document cameras, smart boards, and other equipment relevant to the coursework or discipline being taught in the space.

All smart classrooms include: 

  • PC or MAC with port for removable USB storage device 
  • Projector and large screen or large format TV monitor 
  • Audio system/speakers 
  • Wireless internet capabilities 

Available PC software includes: 

  • Windows 10 64 bit
  • Microsoft Office 2016 Professional 
  • Browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari 
  • VLC
  • Adobe DC Professional 

What should you do as an oral presenter?

  • Try to visit the location of your presentation ahead of time to familiarize yourself with the space.
  • Please use the computer provided in your presentation space. 
  • You may choose to create slides in Google Slides, Microsoft Power Point, Prezi, or other programs. 
  • You can save your presentation to the Cloud and/or bring digital presentation materials on a USB flash drive. It is strongly recommended that presenters have backups of their digital presentation materials.  
  • If there are any difficulties during the presentation, please inform the moderator who will contact the building monitor and the technical support team. 
  • You should arrive at your assigned classroom at least 15 minutes prior to the start of your session to transfer your digital presentation material to the computer and ensure that it opens properly. 
    • If you are using audio or need an internet connection, check that everything is working properly.
  • Plan your presentation with your audience in mind
  • Think carefully about your central message.
    • What do you want the audience to know by the end of your presentation?
    • Most people will only remember a few take-home points from your carefully constructed presentation (if that!).
      • There's no point in getting bogged down in minutia that the audience can't really process anyway. 
    • In general, the overall structure of your presentation should follow this format:
      • Tell the audience what you will tell them.
      • Tell the audience.
      • Tell the audience what you just told them.
  • The most important parts are the beginning (to draw the audience in) and the ending (to wrap up, to inspire). Put some thought into how to make these parts of your presentation have impact.
  • Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse! 
    • Practice without timing yourself first to get comfortable presenting.
    • Then practice timing yourself to see how long your presentation lasts.
    • Make adjustments as necessary to plan for a 15-minute presentation.
  • Notice any idiosyncrasies that may distract your audience.
    • E.g., fidgeting, pacing, reading, voice too loud, voice too soft
  • Think about your speaking style.
    • Can you speak loudly and clearly?
    • Can you modulate your voice appropriately?
    • Or do you tend to sound monotone when you give presentations?
  • Proofread your presentation many times.
    • Are terms used consistently?
    • Are there any spelling errors?
    • Is anything mislabeled?
    • Are fonts the correct size?
  • Plan to attend the entire hour-long session.
    • You will go in the sequence listed in the conference program.
    • Refrain from coming late or leaving early.
  • Show respect for fellow presenters – ask questions, and pay attention when they’re speaking.
  • Consider planning out the answers to anticipated questions.
    • Regarding your sample, analyses, future directions, etc.
  • Avoid colloquial slang, derogatory terms, etc. 
  • Thank your mentor(s) and others for their contributions.

What to Avoid

It is usually not required that you use visuals for your presentation, but they can often help the audience follow along with your research. If you use Google Slides, Microsoft Power Point, Prezi, or other programs:

  • Avoid the temptation to put too much text on your slides; the audience can get bored or overwhelmed and might not be able to clearly see all the words if you've used a small font (less than 20-pt is considered "small"). 
  • Avoid font types that are hard to read or look unprofessional.
  • Avoid putting words on a busy background that makes the words hard to read.
  • Avoid using font color that doesn't contrast with the background (in other words, your audience can't read gray text on a black background). 
    • Also, think about audience members who may be color blind or visually impaired
  • Avoid tables and graphs that have too much information
    • You can recreate those tables and graphs with just the most important information instead.

Also, consider your verbal and physical presentation:

  • Avoid reading your slides to the audience.
  • Avoid reading from prepared notes; the audience will maintain interest better if you can speak extemporaneously directly to them. It's also hard to make eye contact with the audience if you are reading.
  • Avoid distracting behaviors or verbal tics (“um,” “like,” “uh”).
  • Consider your body language (e.g., arms crossed can come across as you not wanting to be there).
  • Avoid turning your back to the audience.

Ways to Stand Out

  • Embrace a "Presentation Zen" style: simple (not simplistic), clean, and powerful. 
  • Have interesting, high-resolution images or infographics on your slides.
  • Consider ways to involve your audience and make the presentation a little bit interactive so it's not just you talking the whole time.
    • You could connect your research to recent events (perhaps asking the audience to summarize the recent event).
    • You could ask specific questions throughout the presentation.
    • You could poll the audience on a topic relevant to your presentation (perhaps even using a free resource like Socrative or Poll Everywhere).
    • You could insert a powerful quote into your presentation (perhaps at the beginning or end).
    • You can show a short video to illustrate something important about your topic. 
    • The point is not to be gimmicky; the point is to keep your audience interested and engaged (especially when the audience has been listening to oral presentations all day and might be tired).
      • Be aware, though, that different disciplines have different conventions regarding what is and is not appropriate for an oral presentation
      • Be sure to ask your advisor for advice first.
  •  How do public speakers keep the audience engaged?
    • Smiling
    • Showing enthusiasm for their work
    • Being energetic
    • Using emphasis on certain words
    • Using hand gestures to keep the audience engaged

Handling Audience Questions

  • Be sure to leave some time at the end. The moderator will help you with this.
  • If a questioner is soft-spoken, repeat or paraphrase the question so everyone hears.
  • Avoid long, meandering answers.
  • Don’t make something up if you don’t know an answer. Offer to look it up and get back to the person, and be open to someone in the audience knowing the answer.
  • Give positive reinforcement to questioners (smiling, nodding, “that’s a good question”).
  • If someone is attacking you or otherwise being rude, remember that this usually comes from someone who wants to show off or appear smart in front of everyone
    • The other audience members will recognize the rudeness and be on your side!
    • Stay calm, answer as best you can, and acknowledge it when he/she makes a good point (smiling and nodding can disarm an attacker).
  • People will often talk to you right afterwards
    • Try to avoid running out right after your presentation if you can help it.
  • Audience members may email for a copy of your presentation or to ask further questions
    • Be sure to follow up with them.