“The Art of the Conference Paper”

As I’m working on some papers for the spring conferences, I found that Alessandro Angelini at InsideHigherEd has written a wonderful guide for graduate students looking to make a good academic presentation.

Here’s a particularly catchy excerpt:

Graduate students especially, I observed, seem to gravitate toward one of two unfortunate oratory personas. One archetype is the perhaps well-prepared but painfully meek presenter who races through her text without pausing to take a breath. Hunched over the lectern, terrified and yet robotic, like a contestant on a game show with no reward but to avoid public humiliation. The other type is the scholar who doesn’t regard the limits — neither of chronological time nor of the attention span of the audience. Shuffling pages of marked-up drafts, it’s all excess, aggregated thoughts without conclusion. A verbal Pollock painting, some method but mostly mess.

I witnessed variations on both kinds of presentation and, content aside, each is symptomatic of the same underlying features of post-graduate life: one is often at a low point in intellectual confidence, one has yet to produce original work, and most importantly, one is new at this. So one either communicates this felt fragility or compensates for it with unmeasured bombast.

About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, transplanted to Pennsylvania...lived and taught in Eastern Europe for six years…Old Testament professor, ordained minister, occasional liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth.
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