I promise, barring a conference emergency, this is my last conference related post for a while. But I thought it might be of interest to some of our readers to hear my strategies for conference presentations. Or more to the point, how vapid and superficial I can be.
Now professional conferences are a chance for working scholars to share and get feedback on their research. It’s how you find out what’s going on in the cutting edge of your field. It’s also a chance to hear leaders in your field, which can be incredibly inspiring (and provide connections for future jobs).
But I’m not leader in my field. My research isn’t particularly cutting edge. And a lot of the times it’s on a somewhat obscure subject. I could beat myself up over all this stuff, but the truth is, there’s a limit to how much control over all that I have. So my strategy is twofold: I try to insert humor whenever possible and I make sure I look cute (as cute as I can… I’m not saying I’m all that).
The second part was advice from one of my advisers (who I must say, practices what she preaches). The first part is… well you know I like the funny. I think “If you can’t be interesting, be funny” are words to live by. And I try to. I discovered today that my friend J follows a similar strategy. When I commented on what a bad strategy it might be, he said, “Look the bottom line is, at a certain point during conferences where people lose their ability to process theoretical material. But they can always tell whether your blazer fits and your shoes are snazzy.” (Honestly, I think there are a lot of people out there who don’t notice what anyone’s wearing, but that’s another matter).
Truth be told, I don’t know if any of this works on my audience. But I know that it works on me. I’m much more comfortable being funny than being deep. And wearing a cute pair of tights, snazzy heels and a nice pencil skirt really does make me stand a little taller. Literally and figuratively. It makes me more comfortable up there, which probably makes me more articulate. And maybe, just maybe makes me more fun to listen to.
Or maybe not. This year an older gentleman began snoring loudly during my paper. But at least that brought the funny.