A friend went through my blog and pointed out specific things to not do next time. Most of it was stuff I knew but simply didn’t have time to do, but I thought I should pass it on just because his advice is still good advice. I recommend hitting Part 2 before reading this blog for context, as the advice below will roughly follow my timeline.
I’m thinking, I have a night and a morning to rehearse–which, for me, basically means memorize every single word and comma that I want to say (not ideal, but I’m too inexperienced to wing it, at least in my book) — I’ve had worse.
With not being able to wing a presentation, it’s useful to put yourself in situations in which winging it is the only feasible option. Namely, TAing. You can prepare material and know the information, but going by script is nearly impossible. Conference presentations should roughly be the same situation: you know the material well enough that you know what to talk about on each slide, but you don’t have every word memorized.
I met up with [a fellow OEB grad student], and that second graph that I was sort-of kind-of not really confident in was definitely an issue. After meeting with her, I went back to my room to try to fix it, ended up trashing it completely.
He says trashing a graph last minute was a bad plan. I should have included it and explained it the best I could, and then address it in questions if there were any. I could have done this, yes, but honestly, I was at the point where I was questioning the accuracy of the graph, and whether I indexed the lists right when making it, I had lost that much confidence in it. Any other situation, I would have stuck with it.
After calming myself down, I got to the ready room around 1.35 or so, only to find out that the projectors are old and don’t have HDMI inputs, only VGA. And the IT dudes don’t have anymore VGA to HDMI converters. I mass text everyone I know at SICB to see if they have a converter, but no luck.
Check your laptop inputs and make sure to have a common converter on hand. VGA to HDMI is the common windows converter at the moment (not sure with mac, maybe VGA to lightning?), especially with projectors, so purchase one.
So, we’re trying to put my presentation and videos onto a USB, but because I’m also using a font file that I downloaded onto my laptop, not a default font, I’d need to install the font on the in-session computer before the session started. Well, my talk was scheduled for 2.30pm on Friday, with the session starting at 1.30pm. That’s not happening at this point. So, I could use a USB, but I’d have to go through all my slides to convert the unique font to a standard one.
Save a copy of your presentation as a PDF. That way, no matter what font or computer you use, it stays unchanged. I had done this, but I had multiple videos in my presentation and hadn’t practiced finding them in the directory, opening and playing them by hand, and knew that would eat into my time. I wanted to do everything else before switching to a PDF.
The IT dude who had been helping me, Mike, says he might come to the room with me just to make sure I’m able to hook up correctly. At that point, I don’t think I need the help, but I’m glad there’ll be someone there just in case I mess something up.
Always accept IT help, even if you don’t think you need it.
The. Room. Was. Massive.
I didn’t know this, but apparently, SOP is that before the session starts, you should introduce yourself to the moderator so they know who you are and can get everything ready for your talk (like installing a font file on the computer, etc.).
Definitely go to the room sometime during the conference before your talk, and be there before your session starts. Get an idea of the size of the room, where the projector is, where the best place to stand during your presentation is, etc. Also, the moderator generally should be able to give a short introduction to the speaker (university, field, etc.), so meet them before the session.
So, I’m standing at the front of the room, two IT dudes are now rushing to get the computers and the projectors working–thank god it’s not my fault– and all I can do is make awkward eye contact with my friends standing at the back of the room and the few audience members I know and try not to freak out as my talk gets shorter and shorter by the second, and I had been pushing 14 1/2 minutes during rehearsals.
I could have tried starting without the projectors (which would have sucked because my one intro slide was a video to explain the pneufish), or I could have tried making some jokes. I’m not the spontaneous, light-hearted type of funny. I’m the sarcastic, cynical type of funny. That generally doesn’t go well when trying to make a good first impression in an awkward situation. Someone else could probably tell a joke and get away with it, though.
The moderator was super nice and gave me the full fifteen minutes to talk, which they didn’t have to do. That made me feel better since I didn’t have to super max rush through things to finish.
It’s better to just not do the last 2-3 slides than to super max rush a talk.
(This next one though…)
I made sure to say twice that I was new. Once when I introduced myself (“I’m a first year grad student at HU and I’m talking about a project I’ve been working on since fall.”) and once with the goals (“The biggest thing I could accomplish in four months was looking at an expanded parameter space.”).
It’s good to have sympathy. By saying I was new on top of the technical difficulties, I had two votes of sympathy going for me. Yay?
Of course, once I was finished, I was hit with a massive wave of depression and self-doubt.
Like taking a test, it’s probably better to not think about it until you get the results back. Your thoughts will always be much worse and harsher than what the professor (or audience) is thinking. Go enjoy the conference, it should be distracting enough.
When I told them I got an email with a “great” and an “excellent” in it, they said I’m definitely fine then.
Oh man was it nice to hear that.
Use positive feedback to build your own confidence for next time. And look on the bright side, there’s no way I could be less prepared at my next talk than I was for this one, and it turned out okay.
That’s it for now. If you have any advice, send it my way. I might ask to include it in this post.