18 Unsolicited Pieces of Advice for Novice (And Not-So-Novice)

PAMLA Conference Attendees/Presenters 

  1. Go to other folks’ sessions, and ask a real, thoughtful question (don’t make a speech disguised as a question). Doing so will be good for you, and good for the presenter and the entire session. Good listeners and thoughtful and polite questioners help to make a conference a success.
  2. Go to as many other sessions as you can. Don’t just give your paper and leave. The karma you generate as a result of attending other sessions will mean more people will attend your session in turn. If everyone followed this rule, no one would have to complain about the size of their own session’s audience.
  3. Read through (out loud) and time your presentation a few times before you present, both to make sure you will not go over your allotted time and to be sure your paper reads well and is clear. (If you haven’t yet spoken to your chair or presiding officer about how much time you will have, please email them. As a general guideline, you will have approximately twenty minutes if your session has three panelists, and 15 or 16 minutes if your session has four panelists, but the exact time is up to your presiding officer/chair.)
  4. Project. Remember, “Sing out, Louise!” Be sure those all the way at the back of the room can hear you.
  5. If your talk depends on images or text, plan a backup (handouts, or a mime, perhaps?) just in case the AV doesn’t work. Get there early to check the AV. And factor the AV time in. If you have a mere 16 minutes to present, and it takes you three minutes just to get a five minute clip to show, you will only have eight minutes left for your paper (yes, the time you take to set up and get the AV to work does count as part of your allotted time). All of our rooms this year are smart classrooms, so they will have computers and projectors. But do be sure to get there early nonetheless, and if you plan to use PowerPoint, bring a flash drive and email your presentation to yourself.
  6. Remember that presenting a paper—or your research, your argument—is a performance. Think about how to perform interestingly your work to an audience. Simply reading as quickly as you can a bunch of words for twenty minutes is probably not the most interesting performance strategy.
  7. Try to get something real, vital, alive, important, or interesting into your paper. People have limited time and attention, so try to move them, inspire them, intrigue them, or make them think.
  8. You are giving an oral presentation, so remember that what might work in a written/read essay may not work in an oral presentation.
  9. Avoid overly long plot summaries, on the one hand, or dense, extended theoretical passages, on the other. Either too much plot summarizing or too much dense theorizing left unexplicated or unapplied can put an audience to sleep.
  10. You probably should assert something, and you probably need supporting evidence for your main assertion.
  11. Clarity of prose and clear, logical connections are no crime.
  12. Try to look up from your paper now and again, so as to make eye contact with your audience.
  13. You don’t need to express every idea you ever had about this subject. Remember, other conferences await you in the future. It is usually more interesting and important to dive deeply than to try to explore too much territory. It is better to speak clearly and thoughtfully than to rush too quickly so as to try to cram too much material into a 16 or 17 minute presentation.
  14. Stay in contact with your chair and/or presiding officer. They are there to help. You should send them a brief bio to introduce you with. Be sure they know you are set for the session, and that you know exactly how much time you have for your presentation. If a problem comes up, do let your presiding officer, chair, and Craig Svonkin, PAMLA Executive Director ([email protected] or 626-354-7526), know immediately.
  15. Look at the map of the conference site (Chaminade University of Honolulu: https://www.pamla.org/sites/default/files/chaminade_campus_map.pdf ), and the schedule for the conference, ahead of time. Be sure you know where you need to be, and where you want to be. Arrive early to pick up your registration materials (the registration process may take, depending on crowds, 15-20 minutes), and arrive at your session early as well. Plan sufficient time for all of that. Nothing horrifies a panelist more than the chair arriving late, and nothing horrifies a chair more than a panelist arriving late. You may see the PAMLA schedule here (some rooms are still in flux, so please check again a few days before the conference begins): https://www.pamla.org/2017/schedule (click on “Complete” to see the full schedule).
    The Complimentary PAMLA Bus schedule from the Ala Moana hotel to Chaminade University is here, but do plan to get to Chaminade a bit early–traffic in Honolulu can be tricky: https://www.pamla.org/2017/accommodations-and-transportation 
  16. When your fellow presenters are presenting, or when you are in the audience listening to a presentation, do pay attention and jot down some notes, so you can help to foster a lively discussion following the presentations. A stimulating discussion can be as important and inspiring as three or four interesting papers.
  17. Try to be friendly and have fun. If this is your first PAMLA conference, welcome. If you are naturally shy, do try to push yourself to be friendly. Put yourself out there—you will have a better and more productive time.
  18. Come to the special conference events and sessions (for example, the PAMLA Forum, the Presidential Address and Plenary Address Luncheons (the luncheons do cost a bit extra), the Friday night Creative Artist Spotlight event, and the Friday night PAMLA Reception):