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I'm a PhD student, and I'll soon be presenting some of my work at a conference. In the program, my presentation is labeled "invited" while others have "oral" and others "Keynote". I am a bit confused, as I was never invited (maybe one of my professors was) and would like to know the difference between these kind of presentations.

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Having an invited talk and not having been invited is unusual, indeed. Maybe your professor was invited and passed the ball to you; the best thing to do is asking him/her.

"Oral" also is unusual for me (but maybe not in other fields). As noted in the other answer, typically the hierarchy is, from most to least prestigious:

  • keynote/plenary: people who were invited to participate by the organizers, who may also be paying their expenses. Unlike the rest of the talks, they are not in parallel sessions or have a reduced level of parallelism. Sometimes, when there are no parallel sections, "keynote talks" are simply longer.
  • invited: talks given by speakers that were explicitly invited by the organizers. Typically (but not always), the travel and registration expenses of these speakers are paid by the organizers.
  • contributed: people who applied themselves for participation (and were accepted) and are going to give a talk, usually in parallel.
  • poster: people who are going to present a poster instead of giving an oral talk. Sometimes people are given the option to present either a contributed talk or a poster.

I assume that "oral" means "contributed" here.

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A keynote speech or presentation is a high-profile talk intended to be of interest to everyone at the conference, and is one of the selling points of the conference. Invited speakers are those who have been invited to give a talk by the organisers of the conference. My assumption is that 'oral' is just every other talk, i.e. speakers who applied to the conference and were selected to deliver their presentation.

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    In conferences where there are multiple presentations going on at once in different rooms, the keynote presentations will typically be "plenary sessions" in a very large room with no other talks going on at the same time. Keynote or plenary speakers typically have much more time for their presentations (1 hour or 1.5 hours compared with a typical 20 minute or 30 minute slot for an individual invited or submitted presentation.) – Brian Borchers Jun 28 '15 at 16:19
  • Not all plenary talks are "keynote" talks. I have given the former at a number of conferences, but not the latter. A conference generally would have no more than one (or maybe two) keynote talks, given by the most featured senior researchers present. (If the conference has a banquet, it's usually on the same day as the keynote talk.) Even if there are numerous parallel sessions, there may be two or three plenary talks per day, and they can't all be keynotes. In fact, at a couple of conferences I attended, each session organizer gave a plenary talk. – Buzz Jun 29 '15 at 15:01

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