Since I was a child the term conference was quite familiar in our Christian household. As a member of the African Methodist Episcopal religion, everyone would dress in formal apparel for conferences, and this event almost seemed like the battle of the churches. I used the term ‘battle’ to mean contest because each church would spend weeks preparing their departments for week-long conference activities – in an attempt to outperform each other or so it seemed. While the primary aims of these conferences were far deeper than a competition, it was during these activities members became familiar with those who were the best singers, preachers, evangelists and so forth.
A few years later I received a scholarship to attend the AIDS conference in Vienna as youth journalist and that experience was enlightening for various reasons. The first was that there were countless A-listers (politicians, billionaires, entertainers etc.) from around the world at this event. In my view, the challenge was keeping my cool while interviewing these ‘celebrities’ in an attempt to get some serious questions and concerns addressed. The second was that although they were famous some sessions were well attended while in others sessions the audience was sparse. But how did these previous conferences help me to prepare for the onslaught of academic conferences I’d be attending during my PhD journey.
Since the start of my PhD in February 2012, I never presented my work at an academic conference. So, I decided to present a summary of my research at the RESCON 2013 conference on December 17th. RESCON is an annual research conference held at Birmingham City University and it is a space for staff and postgraduate students across all faculties to talk about their research. I decided that it would practice at this internal conference, in preparation for my first External academic event MeCCSA 2014 Conference. I was a tad nervous while presenting my research journey at RESCON. I think I always get a bit anxious about the way the audience receives my work and I sometimes allow that anxiousness to control my presentation delivery. So I intend on using my conference presentations as a way of gaining control of my nervousness.
So I’m sure some of you may be asking how is an academic conference different?
“An academic conference is a conference for researchers (not always academics) to present and discuss their work. Along with academic or scientific journals, conferences provide an important channel for the exchange of information among experts.”
Academic conference. (2016, February 5). New World Encyclopedia, . Retrieved 10:26, June 27, 2016 fromhttp://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Academic_conference&oldid=993849.
Some of the main differences between academic and the non-academic conferences include:
- Audience members participate in post-presentation discussions where they react and sometimes debate interesting points raised by the presenter.
- Other scholars get an opportunity to interact with scholarly work in progress or debate existing claims.
In a later post I will talk about the benefits of presenting at Academic Conferences.
NB: This post was updated to reflect current thoughts on the subject matter.