C is for… Conferences #AtoZChallenge

C is for… Conferences

Academic conferences can be scary places but they can be hugely inspirational, both to attend and to present at. They can also be extremely tiring – you have been warned.

Advice when completing a PhD nowadays is to publish as you go along, the thought of this, to me, has been petrifying, but standing in front of people chatting about my ideas is less so (odd, yes?). I guess there is more of a permanence in the latter and because ideas mould and develop over time the idea of solidifying something in a journal seems too daunting. Not that I won’t challenge myself to go there – but I might need to take baby steps – blogging about my ideas is one of these.

I have already presented at conferences on my PhD and other subjects – I’ve also recorded myself presenting but not yet listened back, though it will be really helpful to, so that I can remember a) What I said and b) What questions I was asked and how I answered them.

One of my tasks for when I return to work is to add all the conference presentations/posters I have completed to  the work publications archive – but will I be brave enough to add the audio?

I’m going to tell you my secret stages of presenting at conferences now:

1. See a conference that looks really exciting – note the date that abstract submission closes.
2. Forget the date that abstract submission closes and panic write an abstract the night before (pull out your hair trying to get it under the minuscule word count whilst retaining a semblance of coherent thought – I think/hope I’m getting better at this).
3. Miraculously get abstract accepted (or not then maybe you can attend without fear).
4. Realise not too long before the conference that you need to write something, develop a poster, presentation etc.
5. Re-read abstract and try and remember what you were talking about when you wrote the abstract.
6. Possibly realise that in the interim months you have moved on with your ideas and try and write something which matches the original abstract but also expresses your new thoughts.
7. If you are like me continue working on said presentation up until the presentation (this is because I like to try and acknowledge what I’ve heard in the sessions I’ve heard before where relevant).
8. Go over time because you have added things last minute.
9. Think it has gone awfully and decide never to write an abstract again.
10. See a conference that looks really exciting…

Or is this just me?

Speaking of writing abstracts there is a deadline on Friday… hope this post doesn’t jeopardise my chances.

I am very excited to be attending and presenting at the auto/biography conference to be held in Barcelona in July. I was also lucky enough to be awarded PGR development funding to attend. I will be presenting the following (and a joint presentation that I’m really excited about):

Cover Stories: using books to tell the tales of a writing life

My PhD explores my need to engage in the occupation of creative writing. Books are the artefacts or tools of a writer’s trade. It is commonly suggested that we should not judge a book by its cover but in reality that’s exactly what we do. This paper will become a field text (Clandinin and Connelly 2000) examining my creative writing narrative and autobiography through the cover images of books that have been influential in my writing life. The literary concept of intertextuality will be discussed as an understanding that works of literature cannot be separated from other works that have come before, or from the general culture in which they are created (Allen 2000). This further supports my decision to utilise autoethnography as a methodological approach, where the self is always seen in connection with others (Chang 2008).
Finally, books have been a great source of comfort to me and even looking at a familiar book can induce a sense of calm. This will be linked to the core belief of occupational therapists and occupational scientists – that occupation links to wellbeing (Wilcock 1998).

Allen, G (2000) Intertextuality. London: Routledge.
Chang H (2008) Autoethnography as method. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Clandinin DJ and Connelly FM (2000) Narrative inquiry: experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Wilcock AA (1998) An Occupational Perspective of Health. Thorofare, NJ: Slack.

What has your best conference experience been?
Does my ‘stages of presenting’ seem familiar to you? Please say I’m not alone?

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Posted on April 3, 2013, in April A-Z Challenge, PhD and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. I’m not (currently) working on a doctorate, so I can’t say I relate totally (though I am familiar with some of what you say), but something you said here did resonate. My degrees are in theology, and I have considered the possibility of trying to get published in that field. Two things have held me back. One is the fact I don’t really have a platform, so anything I write would be a hard sell for an agent–that one’s still relevant. The other was the fact that I was afraid I would publish, then years later think twice about the topic and completely change my mind, making my published work obsolete. I think I could cope with having to say “I no longer think that,” but then I think about all those who might have bought my book being disappointed. The older I get, the less likely I think that is to happen, since my thoughts have had longer to percolate, be challenged, discussed, etc. But even if I had published on something I no longer agree with, to some my initial arguments might remain sound, and they may disagree with the reasons I changed my mind. So that work might not lose its value, even if I no longer hold those views.

    All the best with your conference presentation, Kirsty. Those are good tips. 🙂

    • Thanks Colin. It’s odd isn’t it, so etching like blogging can be accepted as ‘linked to its time’ but a book has permanence. Just put a big disclaimer at the front – these we’re my views in 2013. They may change tomorrow.
      Have you thought about self publishing?

  2. HA! I somehow have made this conference cycle part of my regular life… I will assure you, though, it’s not as stressful when it is ‘part of the job’ as it is for students or candidates… you get farther in and get a feel for what is good enough and what isn’t… builds confidence. Of course some conferences are more competitive than others, but you’ll get the hang of it.

  3. The Golden Eagle

    I’ve never been to a conference, much less done any presenting, so I haven’t had any similar experiences; but I’d be willing to bet my list of steps would look quite a bit like yours!

  4. I laughed out loud at your ‘secret stages of presenting at conferences’ because they are very similar to my ‘secret stages of submitting to anthologys’ 🙂

  5. sweetbeariesblogposts

    Your phd research sounds fascinating. I always try not to judge a book by its cover because sometimes ones with captivating covers are not what they seem. I have found a couple of books with unassuming covers, which had wonderful tales. I sort of feel nostalgic for old books with sturdy binding, and less in the way of cover art. I love cover art, but there is just something wonderful about an old hard bound book.

    • The one thing I do miss on the Kindle is a proper appreciation of the cover (especially the back). I wish there was a synopsis finder on there to help you remember what the books are all about.
      (I also miss the smell but that may just be me).
      I hope my PhD will be interesting – going to be doing it for a few years ;o)

  6. Yes, very much like I remember it as a student. Everything gets better with practice and experience. One thing never changes, at least for me: abstracts still get submitted at the very last minute, no matter how much experience I rack up. 🙂

    The size of the conference is a big factor in the experience, too: If it’s less than 100 people, one can really try to forge connections with a good fraction of the attendees. More than 1000? Very different — a “drinking from the fire hose” experience, for sure. Time management is key, especially in choosing between parallel sessions. I’ve been to some meetings that have topped 20,000. For those, you need to really factor in some down time for yourself, to catch your breath.

    My advisor advised me that each lunch and dinner out at a conference should be spent with different groups of people, to maximize the networking. (My own inner introvert has never been able to really achieve that, but I try.)

    • Happy (and not) to hear that things never change re abstracts – I always have been a procrastinator though.
      I get very frustrated with parallel sessions – there are always clashes – if only I had Hermione’s Time Turner.
      Good advise re the networking – I will probably eat with friends but always happy to chat over tea.
      20,000 seems like an awful lot. Hopefully not all in the same session staring at you (no more than an 100 please and even that is scary).

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