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Time Management and Conferences

Yah, it’s difficult to hand in all of those papers, apply for travel grants, and get that abstract sent off in time, but not impossible. You just have to know how to manage your time.

Ideally you should start a list of promising Calls for Papers about six months ahead of the busiest months for deadlines – December and June. Start local if you are not a seasoned conference speaker as you are going to need all the time you can get on writing that proposal and preparing your speech. In this case, you should be asking peers and professors if there are any low-profile symposia coming up, as your goal is to have the least stressful preparation time. Often your university will have workshops or student-led discussions that can get you started.

One good thing about conferences is that you usually do not have to prepare much more than 10 pages of text for your presentation. Ideally you will have a thesis/chapter all ready to be edited into a concise little package for your abstract; but if it isn’t quite ready to be released upon the world, the best way to save time and keep your sanity – and maybe even enjoy your research a bit – is to recycle papers and articles you have been working on but have not published yet. The trick is to find an angle.

So dust off that paper on Mughal floral symbolism from last year that you have been dying to get back to, and look at the CFPs to see if there is any way you can fit it into someone’s conference theme. Is there a symposium with a post-colonial bent? Maybe you can connect European collections of Asian art with issues of paternalism. Is there a conference on the decorative arts? Maybe you can discuss floral symbolism in Persian rugs. You should try a few different angles, but they should not be so different and so far from your original subject that you end up sacrificing deep research for broad.

Once you have crafted a few good abstracts that you think can be pursued in tandem with your primary research, send them off and continue to take notes and craft good outlines. Don’t bother with the final writing until someone invites you to speak at a conference, but you should be prepared to write quickly once you get that invitation. Sometimes there are only a few weeks between the time you are notified and the actual date of the conference. Also, remember conferences are fun, good for your resume, and great for bouncing new ideas off your peers, but unless you are pretty far along in your grad program, conference papers are much less important than getting your thesis/PhD proposal all together. If you can’t fit it all in, there will always be another conference.

Finally, prepare for your speech. If you can, please try to work from notes rather than reading a paper. This always makes the speech more dynamic. Also, practice speaking. It is really impossible to give a really good speech without running through it more than a few times. And don’t forget about the time limit. There is nothing more annoying to your fellow speakers than speaking for a half hour or 45 minutes when you have a suggested 20 minute time limit. less time speaking also means more time for questions, and that is what you are there for, right? To find out where you can strengthen your argument or to learn more from people in related areas? The organizers will appreciate it and remember you for it as well if you can control your time. They may even like you better for it and look for you at the next networking opportunity.

Related info: Get off the stage and tweet by Steve Friedman

What to do when being an expert comes knocking on your door by Socialchangediva