I have talked about conferencing and its benefits before and today I have more to say about that part of the PhD life again. I know I titled this post Do something that scares you because conferencing is one of those scary things I have had to do as part of the PhD. Scary as it may be I have found it very very useful. I attended a conference and presented a paper in the second week of November. This had me even more scared than the other conferences I have participated in.
So what really scares me about conferencing; first I have to stand up and speak in front of a crowd. I know it may only be twenty people it still remains a crowd considering they all will be listening to me. This is actually only a problem before I actually stand up and once I begin to speak about my work, I wonder what all the fear was about. Considering that speaking and telling people about research is an integral part of being an academic I should soon get over this.
The second thing I fear is that my ideas are totally not worth listening to. Again time and again I have had a good response to my work and should really get over this fear. But I think I haven’t done this long enough to get to that place where I am super confident and sure. I actually think this is a good kind of fear if ever there is anything like that. It keeps me searching and wanting to perfect my work. It can only be a good thing when you are constantly aiming at bettering yourself. So maybe fear is not the right word to call this, but until I find a more apt description. Fear it is!
Lastly about this last conference I was presenting at a history conference. I am not a historian and wondered if my work would be acceptable. I figured they accepted my abstract it would be ok. I was still on edge however because for the first time I was presenting to people who had more background knowledge about the work I am doing. It should really not be a problem but I worried nonetheless.
I have to add another scary thing I did for the conference, I sent out emails to two professors just to say I was looking forward to meeting them at the conference as I was interested in their work. I read this tip from The Professor Is In blog. She advices that you send an email prior to the conference to people whose work you have an interest in and would like to meet. One of the benefits of conferencing is getting to meet people working in fields you have an interest in, in short its called networking. I have never gotten that part about conferencing right. I was usually able to strike up conversations with other PhD candidates like me which is a good thing but its of more value to meet the more established scholars especially when looking at what your future prospects or your next step after the PhD will be.
When I first read this piece of advice it was the missing link to my success in conferencing but I must admit sending out the emails was difficult. I started to think of all the reasons why this was not going to work etc etc. I did it anyway and I am so glad I did. So I sent out the two emails and didn’t get a response. This had me thinking what a terrible idea but when I got to the conference and introduced myself to the professors they remembered me from the email and thanked me for getting in touch. It was a good ice breaker and I certainly had good conversations afterwards.
Eleanor Roosevelt may have said this, but recently I saw it posted by Lupita Nyongo on Instagram as words to live by. I think this is a good mantra to live by. If we stayed in our comfort zone we would never really progress and make discoveries. Its just doing one thing everyday that scares you. @rebeccagelding asks “when was the last time you did something for the first time”. Fear usually holds us captive to the familiar. I challenge you to do something for the first time and do it afraid if need be.