[Skip to Content]

First-time conference attendees

Below we have compiled useful information for first-time conference attendees. 

What is undergraduate research? 

Undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative inquiry is fundamentally a pedagogical approach to teaching and learning. With an emphasis on process, CUR defines undergraduate research as: A mentored investigation or creative inquiry conducted by undergraduates that seeks to make a scholarly or artistic contribution to knowledge.

What is NCUR? 

“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 is scheduled during this session 

  • Everyone is expected to attend 

  • A speaker presents big ideas 

Poster Session 

  • Informal, more opportunity to talk one-on-one with attendees 

  • Presenters stand next to their posters, 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

  • A Moderator will stop the presenter after 15 minutes and facilitate 5 minutes of Q and A 

  • Speakers usually use PowerPoint, Google Slides or Prezi  

  • Attendees feel free to ask questions about the research 

Special Sessions 

  • Part presentation, part interactive with audience 

  • Attendees will often work individually or in pairs/groups on tasks 

  • Instead of a presentation of research, attendees typically learn a skill, such as writing a cover letter or resume 

Visual Arts Presentations 

  • Work is highlighted in an exhibition 

  • Presenters deliver a lecture accompanied by slides of images (see Oral Presentation above) ** Can they show slides in the Foster Art Gallery?? 

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. 

Conference Checklist: What should you do before the conference? 

  • Presenters must register for NCUR 

  • Log in to the NCUR 2023 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 app to help you stay organized 

    • Write down your presentation details in case your phone dies 

    • Consider attending the Futures Fair the day before NCUR 

    • Consider attending the Graduate School Fair featuring 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 check into the conference and pick up your badge

  • 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 afterward. 

  • 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 Big Event on Friday evening. 

  • Be prepared with a few “elevator speeches” about your research, your future plans, your school, etc. 

  • People like to talk about themselves – ask them questions rather than do 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 hashtag associated with them - ours is #NCUR2023

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

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.