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Presenting on my work for the first time(s)!

2015-06-16

I feel so pumped while also needing to crash and sleep for about 24 hours straight!

These past few days were pretty busy and eventful for me. On Saturday, I gave my first paper at a conference. It was the 20th postgraduate conference in Religion and Theology at my own university which I knew to be a supportive environment. It was stressful but it was at home so I knew several people, which definitely helped.

My paper was well-received by the audience (...I hope! I did have two friendly objective faces in there and they said they enjoyed it). I received some good questions and managed to answer them although I need to get better at that so I don't ramble on, forgetting to press the "stop" button!

I also had a good time watching other people presenting. When I don't have a clue what they're talking about (which is bound to happen when you attend a conference that isn't remotely your specialty) I enjoy observing their style and the public.

It was interesting to present to an audience that knows nothing about Deaf Studies. It meant I did give a bit more background, which I felt was necessary to understand the rest within context. Next month I will be presenting on a similar topic in Chicago to an audience who is already a specialist, so that'll be again another challenge.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a training about "presenting with flair and confidence". It was a very good training, and we talked about how presenting isn't really about passing on information. People won't remember most of what you say, if we're honest. Unless they are already fascinated by your topic, they are more likely to remember the way you were rather than your content. That's something I really kept in mind. I feel that presenting should make your audience feel your enthusiasm, and make them feel intrigued (whether it's in a general manner or even to the point of wanting to research it more). I hear papers which are very very technical and while they have their place (and I'm sure are intriguing and interesting to those who understand them) that isn't really my style at all.

On Sunday, I left home early to go to Gatwick and board a plane to Brussels (after a ridiculously long wait at the airport since I was scared of my train being delayed and had planned for a lot of leeway). I was due to present for the second time ever the next day! I had dinner in Leuven with a couple of friends then spent part of the night stressing over the next day. The topic of the workshop was "When academia meets activism" and 13 of us presented for 12 minutes each. The format was "short story", which was different. I took it as meaning "don't hesitate to share personal things, this isn't a presentation with lots of theory and a long bibliography and a tight argument that is backed up with evidence. It's also about feelings and messy stuff". I don't know if what I wrote really was what was expected in terms of format but I got lots of lovely comments about it including by the organisers.

Here again my audience was people who weren't familiar with Deaf Studies although I knew they were likely to have encountered similar "problems" (conundrums?) to mine.

The workshop overall was fantastic! There were lots of feelings and information shared. While sometimes it can be hard to think "okay so... What next?" I think everyone liked having the space to just be supportive towards each other and acknowledge that this stuff is hard!

Most of the people were from Belgium but there were also people coming from the Netherlands, another UK student like me, and even someone from Greece! I found the crowd really welcoming, and that's not a small thing for me to say. I'm really glad I went and I am grateful that the Graduate School of Arts funded my trip.

Now I have a month of researching further what I presented in Bristol, culminating in the delivery of a paper in Chicago! I also need to rework on my master's dissertation in order to present about it in Rimouski in May (...in French. Cue a terrified me) and in Istanbul in July.

...I'll crash and sleep for 24 hours first, though, if you'll allow me!

Tags: academia, conferences