Monday, April 12, 2010

Arizona recap

I've just gotten back from what I need to stop referring to as my "first grown-up conference." It was, at any rate, my first time presenting a paper somewhere where grad students were in the minority. Thoughts:

-I'm glad I had presented at a mixed grad-prof conference before, so that this time I knew (I hope?) a bit better how one goes about presenting a paper, how one shoots for a reasonable length of paper, and all that.

-Internal departmental workshops are not necessarily any less intimidating than actual conference presentations. Even if you're ostensibly presenting a "work-in-progress," at the former, the turnout may be greater, and everyone there is someone you know, whose opinion of you you already know matters. Whereas at a conference, there may be someone famous giving a parallel session, and you may not know just how important people are among those watching your panel, so you can at least imagine they're people you'll never see again, who were just looking for a panel with a catchy title. I was, at any rate, far more relaxed presenting and answering questions about my work this time around than I have been at workshops. Or maybe I was just prepared from having gone to these workshops in the first place...

-Academia remains drama-free, no illicit affairs, no nothing. That, or I was too tired because of the time difference and last-minute final paper-editing for either Friday night on Mill Street or the Saturday night DJ party at the hotel, and so slept through the only times when I might have witnessed anything racy. I was too tired even to turn on the room's TV, which is, in retrospect, extraordinary, given that I don't have TV at home.

-All told, I think the trip was a success. I met lots of people whose works I've sited in tons of papers, and there they were, in person, seemingly interested in my research! Amazing! Definitely a high point of grad school.

And on a non-academic note:

-I impressed several historians with my research skills... by leading a group of eight to a convenient and delicious Mexican restaurant I'd looked up using the hotel's so-so internet connection.

-Someone at the conference recognized my name because she reads this blog! I was first flattered, then concerned when I remembered how many of my posts are about things like silver clogs and their utter perfection. I am a serious person, I promise!

-Tempe, Arizona, has no humidity whatsoever. I was thirsty constantly, but my hair has never looked better.

-Bloch ballet flats are officially the sturdiest ballet flats ever made. I brought only one pair of shoes, because I didn't feel like checking luggage, and these survived a great deal of desert-suburb walking, while still looking professional (or so I hope) enough for conference-going. Tempted as I was to present in silver clogs, my impulse to pack light won out in the end.


David Schraub said...

I'm presenting at my first conference this May (Law & Society). There are several issues that I'm still trying to work out, however:

1) The conference is mostly academics, but the panel I'm on (save the discussant) is all grad students. The audience (oh, what an optimist I am) is unknown. Who do I am for?

2) In most academic disciplines, a proper conference paper is ... what? 5,000 words? 10,000 words? But I'm from the "Law" side of Law & Society, and in our neck of the woods anything less than 200 footnotes marks you as a rank amateur. So I'm clocking in at 26,000 words. Alas, I suspect my (political science and anthropology) panel mates will actually keep theirs to a readable length.

Phoebe said...


In terms of audience (and yes, if grad students are presenting, turnout might be slight), how would you present differently to grad students than profs? I'd assume as with anything else academic, you'll have a mix of people who know your exact topic well and those who need it livened up a bit to get into it.

I don't know the field you're in at all, but I think you do usually hear from the conference how long your talk should be. As for the paper, mine was pretty much the length of my talk, plus footnotes and works cited. As in, 3,400 words minus bibliographic stuff. Unless the paper's for publication as well, I'm not sure about 26,000 words, but again, a grad student in French is not going to know what's appropriate for your field. (For all I know I was meant to send in the long version of the paper I presented, although I doubt if anyone's complaining they didn't get to read a 50-page version.)