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Research Fair success: Elevator Speeches

Tips and tricks for making the most of your Research Fair presentation

The best Research Fair presenters have a ~2 minute “elevator speech” prepared and practiced, ready to say to guests of their presentations.   

This page presents some helpful tips and ideas to think about when creating the spoken part of your presentation.

What's in an Elevator Speech?

Your elevator speech should focus on the main findings of your project or the main goals of your creative or practical experiences.  Two minutes is short, so you won’t have time to mention every small detail.  Allow your guests to lead further discussion with their questions.

Let your poster help!

Use your poster as a visual tool to guide your elevator speech.  Refer to graphs, images, figures, and charts, if you include them.  But don’t read your poster word-for-word to your guests.

Another tip?  Attach a piece of paper with a basic presentation outline to the back one of the outer flaps of your display board.  You can discreetly refer to it if you get caught speechless and forget your lines!

Make the most of it

View every interaction as one that can make a difference.  Always be ready to give your attention to your viewer(s) – they might be a future collaborator or a future professor. 

Interact with the viewers and be courteous; include others if they approach and want to hear your elevator speech and the follow-up conversation.

Be Prepared for Questions

Guests to your presentation will probably have lots of questions!  Depending on the type of project or experience featured in your presentation, you might hear questions like these:

  • What was your primary research question?
  • Did your results surprise you?
  • What was it like to work in a group on this project?
  • What would you do differently if you would repeat this project/experience?
  • What was the best part of your internship/experience?
  • What is your favorite creative media?
  • What would you do differently if you repeated your project/internship/experience?
  • Where will you go from here, now that you’ve completed this project/internship/creative portfolio?

Be Acronym Aware

Beware of using acronyms and jargon as you speak. Assume your audience has a limited understanding of your area of work, and so they might not understand abbreviations or shortened words that are part of the terminology of your research topic.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Successful Research Fair presenters will rehearse their 1-2 minute presentation speech several times before the day of the Fair.  You can try any of these strategies:

  • Record yourself with your phone in selfie mode or with your laptop's webcam.
  • Stand in front of your mirror. 
  • Practice in the shower. 
  • Practice in your car.
  • Give your elevator speech to your roommate, a professor, your family, or friends. 

Practice more than you think you need to; your fair experience will be better for it.

Making Conversation

Make good eye contact with visitors to your table.

Acknowledge visitors with a smile, and offer your elevator speech.

Be mindful of time; don't be overly chatty if you know you're a talkative person, and encourage chatty visitors to visit other displays if it seems they're staying too long.

Work with your neighbors to help keep the flow of visitors moving comfortably.

What if I'm Stumped?

If you don’t know how to answer a question from a Research Fair guest, don’t try to fake it.  Instead, be confident in your response!  Here are some ways you can respond to a tough question:

  • "That is outside of the scope of my project.”
  • "I didn't consider that perspective in my research."
  • “That’s a new idea for me; how would you respond?” 
  • Offer to follow up with the guest if you’re interested in the guest’s question (but don't feel obligated to do that)

Want some more help?  Here’s a small collection of academic websites offering poster presentation guidance, including elevator speeches!

Poster Presentation Tips (Northern Arizona University)

The Elevator Pitch: Presenting Your Research in Conversation (University of Notre Dame Graduate School)

How to Plan Your 1 Minute Pitch (Loyola University of Chicago Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program)


The contents of this page were adapted with permission from a research poster presentation guide created by Louisiana State University.