The idea of presenting at a conference can feel intimidating and nerve-wracking when you’re first getting started, but with a little demystification conferencing can become something to look forward to as well. In this series of posts, I’ll be talking about how to write your proposal, the differences between paper and panel proposals, how to present your paper effectively, and how to negotiate conferences themselves (especially if you suffer from anxiety). As I work in media studies, that’s the field to which these posts are targeted; that said, a lot of what I include here holds true for many other kinds of humanities conferences.
Writing the Paper Proposal 1: The ‘Elevator Pitch’
Conference presentations in media typically run from fifteen to twenty minutes; so, imagine the pain of hearing, “In this presentation, I will…” at the fourteen-minute point of a paper (true story!). With very few exceptions, a conference presentation is not an essay, and treating it as such – complete with intricate prose and complex sentence/paragraph structure, exhaustive literature review, and so on – does little more than secure your place in the annals of bad conference papers that scholars use as cautionary tales. We all want our presentations to be memorable, of course, but usually more for our brilliant ideas than inept preparation.