So, I now have a new hobby: genealogy. It’s kind of the best/worst thing for someone like me – research intensive, no need to actually WRITE results of the research, and (sometimes) heavy on instant gratification. It’s also riddled with intense wishful thinking and enough group thought that weeding through legends and hopes and outright misinformation to find facts is practically a full-time job in itself.
But the research + possibility of instant gratification is mighty appealing to a procrastinating humanities PhD, and so here I am, researching my family.
For many people, those first few conferences can be stressful enough to put you off the whole thing altogether. Particularly at the very big conferences, it’s very easy to feel insignificant and invisible. Everyone seems to know each other, it can be hard to crack existing social networks, Big Name Scholars walk around being (mostly unintentionally) intimidating, and it can all make you want to just go back to your hotel room and call it a conference.
Which, if I’m being completely honest, is what I did for about the first five years of my conferencing career.
Or, really, what to do before everything goes wrong. Because at least once in your presenting career, EVERYTHING will go wrong. Most issues have to do with technology: the Internet connection is bad, you’re missing the right adapter, you forgot to request AV equipment in the first place, the sound isn’t working. What can you do to try to head these problems off at the pass?
One thing to remember is that, at a conference, the Internet is not your friend. Depending on the size of the conference, it may be a matter of a weak signal in the conference rooms, or that the host is relying on guest Internet access that isn’t working like it should – any number of things, really. But the net effect is that you’re stuck in a room, minutes to go before your panel or presentation begins, and the video clip or webpage or whatever it is that you’re relying on as part of your presentation is. not. loading.
As with reading from your paper, there are those who firmly believe that we have too. damned. many. PowerPoint. presentations nowadays; and, also like reading from your paper, a lot of this antipathy towards slides of any kind tends to come from them being handled badly.
So, what does a bad slide look like? I shall illustrate:
In the previous post, I claimed that reading your paper at a conference is not necessarily bad. Not everyone thinks this. There is a large and vocal contingent of scholars for whom reading your paper is the worst kind of conference sin. This is typically because, as I stated above, a lot of read papers tend to be badly read.
So when is reading your paper okay? Or, rather, what makes a good reading? Part of it, as I also said before, has to do with how the paper is written: is it conversational? Does it clearly communicate one idea or topic? Can an audience follow that argument easily? These are the prerequisites for reading a paper aloud at a conference. If you’re presenting snippets from an essay, for the love of all that’s holy do NOT read it at your panel.
You know who they are: the two or three academic stars that get cited in everything. They have their own boxes on the conference bingo card, their names come up so often. And they may be the nicest people in the world. They may actively use their position and platforms to make other scholars and scholarship visible – but that’s them, not the people citing them.
Do I HAVE to? The Pros and Cons of Writing Out a Conference Paper
One thing people – especially those pressed for time – wonder is if you should even bother writing out your paper fully. For some, a detailed outline may suffice; others will move that outline to PowerPoint notes and worth from those.
In fact, there are pros and cons to writing a full draft of your paper:
When you’re trying to make an argument for the importance and significance of your proposed paper, it’s tempting – so very tempting – to claim that what you’re doing has never been done before. If you find yourself writing words to that effect, stop, go to Google Scholar, and do a search for as many keywords related to your idea as you can think of.