Boom you’re a researcher!

Today’s been a bit of a brain fart day in the halls of academia so I’ve decided to end the week commenting on my Experience of the Week…

Yesterday I presented my research to date at an internal symposium. I was pretty relaxed about it up until the first person presented their work, (At 9.30am on Wednesday.) and then I had to sit through 20+ presentations before delivering my own the following day. The nerves began to build more and more after each confident presentation that I witnessed. Just leaving me to question if the work I am to present is going to be any good, let alone interesting to the audience.

At the end of the first day I was asked if I had picked up any tips. All I had learned was that the aircon gets in the way if you restrain your natural speaking voice. Also I hadn’t even timed the presentation, nor had I rehearsed it. I crashed out that night and as I slept I presume the left side of my brain was getting a kicking from the right side of my brain because when I got up in the morning at seven I began deleting slides, consulting references again and adding new slides and editing old ones! Admittedly when I arrived at the conference I had the nerves that had built up the previous day and then the realisation that I hadn’t scripted a speech whilst making changes, (This was something I had planned to do that morning. Not completely change my presentation!) if you can call it that. At best I had some notes and definitions which at some points weren’t even with the correct slide.

The presentation didn’t start well, I was introduced as presenting a title that had later changed, although the abstract that went up some weeks before had the title change within it. On top of that my edits in the morning had changed the presentation somewhat! So I started on a light note by correcting the chair as to the title and began my presentation. Shaking through nerves I decided to keep moving, as to in someway hide this. Approaching the audience when speaking about the content of the slide and stepping back to the projection when slides changed introducing the title and  again approaching the audience as I talked, whilst occasionally returning to the lectern to consult notes at key moments. Before I knew it the chair held up the five minutes notice which I think he’d be trying to get my attention with for a few minutes! Gracefully the presentation came to a close and opened the floor to questions. At this point I was worried as I didn’t know how my leap from the problems of critical infrastructures (CI) & systems-of-systems (SoS) to solutions through cloud computing went down and as such I was worried no questions would be asked, simply because I hadn’t interested the audience or people didn’t care. Fortunately they were  asked though. Yes fortunately there were questions! Four in total, maybe five if you count one person asking more than one question. The nature of them posed questions to the challenges I will face and the nature of the application of cloud computing in the space of CI & SoS. I thought I dealt well. It was custom to applaud people after their presentations but at the end of mine I don’t recall any, probably because nerves had fortunately turned into adrenaline and I was busting to escape the confines of the conference room and blaze several cigarettes. As I took that first drag, I think it finally set in, “I am a computer researcher and I have just presented my research.” and I think that’s been missing from my mindset since I started.

In the aftermath of the presentation, which despite questions I felt went horribly, I received a little positive feedback and interest from other researchers. Someone even wanted to discuss some of findings and even said I have an interesting idea. I’m much calmer now and I have at least a basis for the next time. If I can pass on any advice to anyone having to present then it’s move about, it will take your mind off any emotions or reservations you might have and I think it’s more engaging for the audience, that they have to track you! As for scripting speeches or writing verbose notes, I doubt I’ll ever learn to do that!

I’ll ensure I post a video of it should I get a copy or a link and I’ll bundle the slides together with it in the not too distant. In the meantime enjoy your weekend and next time I’ll write something about a perfect day…

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