Monday, November 25, 2013

AAA Series: Conference Tidal Waves

I just returned from the AAAs in Chicago (the American Anthropological Association meetings – not the other AAA) and I am again motivated with ideas for this blog; not to mention flooded with ideas for my dissertation, future research, places I’d like to work when I graduate, and a million other academic, professional, and personal insights for my life. This is why I love conferences. In the next few days, as my mind mulls over all that I learned over the last 4 days, I will be posting a series on my experiences, insights, and new questions.

However … as great as this intellectual stimulation was, in truth, it wasn't all roses and my love/hate relationship with conferences continues.

Part of this love/hate relationship is just me. While presenting in front of people does make me a little nervous, it is the networking at conferences that really freaks me out. Presenting is easier because it is something I can prepare for ahead of time and generally involves talking about something I am passionate about. Whatever nerves may exist as I walk up to the microphone they tend to dissipate once I start talking about my work. I love my work and that love simply trumps shyness every time. 

Networking is harder for me. It is in those little one on one interactions that my shyness peaks and I suddenly feel like a babbling fool. This, I think, is worse than the anxiety others claim to have about presenting, professionally speaking. I don’t mean to say the fearful feeling is worse, but that the professional consequences are worse. Presenting is important at conferences, but in truth, it is the unstructured coffees, dinners, and drinks that arise out of these meetings where the important information is disseminated and the crucial connections are made.

For this reason, every conference I have ever attended has been a roller-coaster. To make matters worse this time around, I had a medical emergency the 2nd day in Chicago, bright and early in the morning, and so missed an entire day of both panels and networking opportunities. Thankfully I only missed the 1 day. I was shaky the following day, but managed to push through and actually present at my panel that afternoon. It was not my best presentation, but in light of the situation I was happy enough that I managed to stay vertical long enough to be there.

All in all I would say it was a success, despite these bumps in the road. Sure, it could have been better, but such is life.

Note: while this introductory post for this series is a bit personal, the next few posts are going to be much less so. I simply wanted to contextual the impetus for the discussions to come. 

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