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Academic conferences: a survival guide for introverts

Posted on May 22, 2019 by Chung-hong Chan

firststep

I am not sure about everything about myself. However, one thing is pretty sure: I am an introvert. INFP-T to be exact. For me, conferences are my nightmare. Unfortunately, the conference season is there once again. In this season, I will have three conferences to attend. The first one is the ICA conference in Washington DC. And then, I will attend the UseR! Conference in Toulouse. Finally, the IC2S2 conference in Amsterdam.

The decisions for me to attend ICA and IC2S2 were easy to make because they are related to work. I submitted abstracts or papers from my work and those submissions were accepted. And therefore, I need to be there. My institution will pay for my travel, entrance fee, etc.

The decision to attend the UseR! conference was really difficult to make for several reasons. I have two submissions accepted, one as a poster presentation and one as a lightning talk. I have considered the results as a setback because I have expected one of the two submissions would be accepted as an oral presentation. Yes, they were not rejected but it is very difficult to convince myself to attend the conference. The worst of all, these submissions are based on my interest and not directly related to my work. Thus, I need to pay for everything.

After very careful deliberation with my wife, I have decided to go.

But anyway, conferences are still horrible. For introverts, being in a social event is usually not a good experience. But we are living in a society that extroverts are majority and privileged. Tomorrow I will fly to DC to attend the ICA conference. I hope I have charged up my introvert battery and thus I can survive the conference. Once again, I will not do a lot of networking as most of people do. I still consider the event to be a job. My presentation, a performance.

In this ICA, I have further refined my rules of doing ICA presentations. Concretely, I have decided to completely abandon what I called “academic sequentialism”. In this academic sequentialism, scholars usually model a presentation like a hamburger. Starting a presentation with a boring introduction is like eating the bland top bun. Then, follow by the arguments, or the meat. This should be the main attraction. And then the bottom bun is the short conclusion, equally bland. I would like to tell you that this model might work for academic papers but does not work for academic presentations. See how the youtubers make their videos. Or how journalists write their news articles. Consider the attention span of people.

In this ICA, I will attempt to start my presentation with some really really strong content to grab people’s attention and then do the usual sequentialistic stuff and then end my presentation with a kicker, i.e. some even stronger content to kick the audience in the stomach. It is similar to the traditional inverted pyramid model of journalism, in which we have a lede to present the most important information at the very beginning and a kicker to end a news article.

I will report later if this method works.


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