May 28, 2015

My First Research Conference Presentation!

I have had the absolute pleasure and delight recently in being given the opportunity to attend and present at the third Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Conference at Warwick University. I was rather concerned about this and a little nervous, because it had been the first time in a couple of years since I had presented my own ideas but regardless of the time span, any event that involves a person presenting an aspect of their own work that they have been thinking about for a while always brings on a set of nerves.

I found the research conference very encouraging and inspiring because of the positive feedback that I had regarding the research methodology that I’m planning and designing, and also what took me by surprise is that people who have been on their Ph.D. projects for longer than I have been on mine said that they found the poster presentation and my own discussions of my methodology to be uplifting and inspiring. This I found particularly encouraging and surprising given that I’m in my first year and given that formal planning and designing of the methodology are in their very early stages. Not sure if I’m going to upload the poster to an online avenue, but I might create some sort of online version of aspects of the poster at a later time.  I have also found the discussions following other Ph.D. presentations and the debates that I was involved with were also quite encouraging and inspiring and made me think about my own research particularly the further directions I could go with my literature review.

This was a very important day for many reasons: to receive feedback on my work so far, to find out if I could inspire others, to find further inspiration, and to show willingness to be involved with academic discussion and debates at conferences. It delivered far beyond my own expectations and assumptions and, most importantly for my own research that, despite the very early stages of the methodological planning and designing, that I’m on the right track with the methodology.

Encouraging, inspiring, networking, humbleness, being willing to get involved with various aspects of a conference are all important characteristics of a conference and of being involved. It would have been very easy to have refused to have taken part in anything if the nerves were too consuming, but despite the nerves I fell back into the role of presenter and, if you like, teacher, without even thinking about it. Sometimes you need to attend these conferences to remind yourself of exactly who you are and where you are going, so not only are conferences important to engage on an academic, social setting, but also on a personal level.

I do encourage all Ph.D. researchers to engage, attend, and present at conferences whenever they can. I remember attending a conference a few years ago and the result of that conference was a near total dismantle of my research proposal to the core of my research, and a rebuilding of ideas and directions to what it is now. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have attended that conference several years ago and to the Professor who said to me that in time, I would understand the importance of being able to dismantle your own research, or aspects of that research, and rebuild it from a particular position. It is very important therefore to never attend conferences with a set agenda or a set mindset that you are correct and that your ideas are unchangeable: they are changeable, I experienced that a few years ago! Attend conferences with an open mind and a mindset to listen and accept new ideas and perspectives, and decide if whether or not what has been presented is suitable, in some way, to the research that you are developing.

Be open minded about everything: being closed minded is never recommended or beneficial for anything except the pretence that what you believe to be true is true in reality and that every person should follow what you believe is true. Having such closed mindedness is a reason why certain political agendas and political parties can become more favourable or more dominant than they really should be, but that’s an aside and this is not a political blog (well, not too much of a political blog). Nevertheless, closed mindedness is not, and should not, be an academic agenda or goal. Open mindedness is the best approach, not just when attending conferences but within academia in general!

Oh and a couple of other things that might be useful: presenting at conferences might also help you with your Upgrade paper, and shall help towards whatever Professional Development courses or schemes that you are a part with at your own University!

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