APS Careers | Becoming a physicist

Undergraduate Presentation Information

Students presenting their posters in the March Meeting exhibit hall

APS meetings provide opportunities to learn about current research, make great connections with students, mentors, and even potential employers. By presenting your research at an APS meeting, you are making valuable contributions to the scientific community and participating in an important dialogue with colleagues.

Choosing your presentation format

The APS March and April meeting scientific programs are made up of parallel sessions that include both oral and poster research presentations, given both in-person and virtually. There are advantages and disadvantages for each.

Oral presentations

Oral sessions consist of a series of individual talks that are twelve minutes in duration. An oral presentation has the following characteristics:

  • The presentation is given by one speaker in front of an audience.
  • The talk is given using slides (such as PowerPoint or Keynote).
  • The talk time is limited, with one to two minutes of questions at the end.

Advantages of oral presentations:

  • The active time commitment is low, as the talk takes less than 15 minutes.
  • The talk has a potentially larger audience, if you are presenting in a popular session.

Disadvantages of oral presentations include they're having:

  • Limited time to establish context of research (e.g., motivations, background).
  • Little opportunity for in-depth discussion of results with colleagues.
  • Unnerving for those who dislike presenting to larger groups.

Poster presentations

Poster sessions typically take place in large time blocks, usually in the afternoon. Speakers are expected to be available with their posters and to speak about their research for the duration of the session. APS virtual meetings also include ePoster sessions. Poster presentations have the following characteristics:

  • The speaker interacts with audience one-on-one, answering questions as they arise.
  • Talks are supplemented with a 36"x48" poster, which is tacked to a freestanding board at in-person meetings or available online for virtual conferences.
  • Talks are not timed and discussions can continue as long as the speaker and audience desire.

Advantages of poster sessions include that:

  • They allow for more in-depth (and possibly more enjoyable) discussion of research with colleagues.
  • They can be more comfortable for those who dislike speaking to large groups.

Disadvantages of poster sessions include that:

  • The time commitment is longer (most sessions run three hours).
  • They have potentially smaller audience than oral sessions.

Choosing your session

Undergraduates have the option of presenting in a general session or an undergraduate-only session. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding what type of session to present in. Either choice represents an important opportunity for professional development, so decide based on your personal and professional goals.

Advantages of speaking in an undergrad only session are:

  • Presenters are eligible for funding through an Future of Physics Days Travel Grant for March or April Meeting.
  • Talks are potentially less intimidating in a primarily undergraduate audience.
  • Trained mentors provide constructive feedback on the presentations.
  • Each presenter receives a certificate of recognition.
  • Top presenters win prizes.

Disadvantages of speaking in an undergrad session:

  • The audience is typically limited to undergrads and their mentors.
  • Fewer opportunities to network with researchers in a specific field.

Abstracts for undergrad-only sessions must be submitted under the "Undergraduate Research (APS/SPS)" sorting category.

Perfect your presentation

Dress in a way that makes you feel confident

You may notice that some attendees choose to dress in business attire while others dress more casually. How you present yourself is your choice. Our only advice is to be mindful of how you want to appear to other attendees and decide what to wear based on your own preference. If presenting virtually with your video on, it can help to take a quick look around before the presentation and minimize distractions in your background. You can also choose to use a virtual background.

Understand the mechanics of the session

Oral presentations run under a very tight schedule, so it's important that you are able to load and display your slides in a timely manner when it is your turn to speak. Read through the APS AV policies to ensure you have the correct equipment before you head to the meeting. Every meeting, including virtual ones, provides a Speaker Ready Room, which you can use to familiarize yourself with the setup and do a practice run.

Practice your presentation

Take time to practice your talk before your presentation. Session chairs must keep a tight schedule, so be sure to time yourself. Run through your presentation and anticipate possible questions. For a poster presentation, have a shorter version, about two to four minutes, and a longer version, about five to ten minutes, of your talk ready, and you can also think about how you would tailor your presentation differently to different audiences, e.g. expert vs. non-expert.

Additional resources

Advice and techniques on improving your oral and poster research presentations include:

Be mindful of copyrighted material

Do not include music, film clips, or other multimedia content with your presentation unless it is directly relevant to your research. If you must include music, please ensure that it is either open source or music for which you have copyright permissions to use.

Attend your session

If you are presenting, in-person, come early and introduce yourself to the session chair. If you are presenting virtually, reach out to the session chair before the session to introduce yourself. It is polite to attend the entire session, so be attentive from the first talk to the last. If something prevents you from staying for the full session, be sure to see at least one speaker before your scheduled talk.


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