10 Academic Conference Admonitions 

Read 'em and weep. 

Having just returned from the annual IASPM-US conference, held this year at Middle Tennessee State University, I offer the following combination (in no particular order) of pet peeves and suggestions for anyone preparing an upcoming academic music conference presentation.

1. Do not arrive with 17 or more pages of text and expect you'll be able to extemporize or summarize the contents into an engaging presentation. You usually have thirty minutes to present your paper and invite discussion, and your topic really isn't that interesting such that your audience will overlook your disorganized rambling.

2. Know your technology. This can be broken down into several related categories, but the main thing is to know the technology you'll be relying on at your particular panel. Sneak away for 10 minutes from those informal gabfests in the hallway and survey how the technology actually works in the panel's room. Find the audio input selector for the sound system and the volume knob. Figure out what, exactly, happens when you need to play your DVD -- stand-alone DVD player? PC workstation? Your laptop? Are you a Mac person having to use a Windows system?

3. Do not read too fast (see #1).

4. Do not write overly complex sentences -- you are speaking to an audience; they are not reading your article.

5. Make a handout. This is the primary thing your audience will take away from your presentation even if it only summarizes the main points of your talk or provides additional details for things you couldn't include in the paper.

6. Know how to launch your PowerPoint presentation. It's terribly tacky to bring in PP slides but not know how to actually activate the slide show, thus forcing your audience to view your slides through the PP construction interface.

7. Do not bring four CDs and expect your audience will happily wait while you struggle to cue up Track 6 at 7:43 from one disc, and later, Track 2 at 3:47 from another. Before you leave for the conference, find an eager undergrad, grad student minion, or colleague and have them build you a single CD with all your excerpts.

8. Don't be a boring reader. You are performing a verbal presentation of a written text. Create a dynamic text from which to perform a dynamic presentation. You do not need to have freaky body choreography in order to be interesting.

9. Dynamically read presentations from elegantly written texts are better 99.99% of the time than attempts to lecture from a few notes. You are not in the other .01%.

10. If at all possible, stand up to read/perform your text. This is your moment at the conference; don't get buried visually at the panel's table. Short folks may need to avoid podiums, but short folks should always still stand up.

Feel free to contribute any additions in the comments. 

Posted: Mon - February 20, 2006 at 11:40 AM          

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Published On: Feb 20, 2006 09:49 PM
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