Tag Archives: talks

“Student competition sessions” at conferences are weird

Image: Part of the conference programme for the 2016 International Congress of Entomology.

I’m never surprised when I open up the programme for a conference and see a “Student Competition Session” – a bunch of grad (or sometimes, undergrad) student talks gathered together and judged for prizes*.  Not surprised, but mystified, because I find this distinctly weird. Continue reading

Steve presenting at a conference

Conferencing as an old fogey

Photo: Me hijacking my own talk at CSEE 2016 to shamelessly plug my book.  I don’t look all that old, right?  Photo © Alex Smith, with permission.

I’ve just (as I write this) come from my favourite yearly conference: the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution.  It’s my favourite for a number of reasons – among them, really superb science, a broad range of topics, and a lot of friends.  (The latter makes a big difference when you’re conferencing as an introvert.)

I’ve realized something a little bit disturbing.  When I went to my first conference (the Ecological Society of America meeting in 1993, I think), I was young, and a rookie.  I watched the grey-haired old fogeys whose names I knew from the literature, and I knew I should introduce myself and get to know them, but it was hard.  But now, in 2016, I have become a grey-haired old fogey*. Continue reading

For your next conference: poster or talk?

Photo: Poster session, SunShot Grand Challenge Summit and Technology Forum, Denver; Dennis Schroeder/NREL via flickr.com. Public domain (US government agency).

I guess I’ve had conferences on the brain lately, with posts about why conferences have themes and about how I survive conferences as an introvert.  But there’s one question about conferences I hear asked more than any other: Should I give a poster or a talk? Continue reading

“Two cultures” and the talk that terrified me

I’ve mentioned in two recent posts that I don’t get nervous any more when I get up to give a talk. This is partly just age and experience, but more importantly, it’s because I figured out something unsurprising but important: that when I give a talk about my work, I know more about the subject than anybody else in the room.

I did admit, though, to a recent exception: a talk I was terrified to give. I think it’s the exception that proves my know-more-than-anybody-else rule*, and it taught me something I didn’t know about potential relationships between academics in the sciences and the humanities. It happened because I did the (to me) unthinkable: I gave the departmental seminar in my university’s Department of English. Continue reading

Don’t fear falling at the edge of knowledge

Image credit: Lava entering the ocean in Hawaii; US Geological Survey

When I was a grad student, and even a young professor, giving talks scared me: standing at the front of a room with my first slide on the screen made me very, very nervous. The result, of course, was that my talks weren’t very good (and I gave them too fast). I’m quite sure my nerves didn’t make me unusual, but I’ve learned since that actually, I had no reason to worry. You don’t either, and I’ll explain why. Continue reading

Why do senior academics ramble on?

Last month I was at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution. It was a great meeting, as usual, and contributing to that were a whole lot of great talks.

I’ve seen a lot of conference talks over the years, and I’ve noticed a pattern: surprisingly often, grad students finish early, while senior scientists run long*. What I realized this year is that I’ve become part of that pattern: this year, like the last couple, my talks have run longer than planned (see the nifty little figure above). Nobody had to haul me away from the podium; but my talk, which ran a nice tidy 12 minutes in practice, was 14 minutes delivered (using up most of my 3 minutes for questions). As a grad student, I often had a couple of extra minutes to spare. So why is this? Continue reading