Time really has flown, my first ever conference was now over a year ago! It was the University Nuclear Technology Forum, okay it was technically a forum, in Sheffield and whilst it was a good experience it was so early into my PhD that I didn’t give a talk. I actually hadn’t given a proper talk at any conference/forum until just recently, when UNTF 2017 rolled around. This time the commute wasn’t so bad though, in fact I can just about see the building it was in as I write this from my office.
Now agreeing to do a talk at a conference is very easy to do, realising two weeks later that you then actually have to write one, practice it and then stand up in front of 50-odd people is another matter. Especially when you remember how much you loathe public speaking.
It’s not something I’ve ever enjoyed and I have dreaded every single time I have had to stand up in front of people and give a talk. The ones I’ve done so far have usually been smallish affairs, either as part of the NGN training or before that as a mere undergrad. I think now looking back that the smaller the group watching the worse it is, especially when you know them. Which is why my practice presentation for UNTF, in front of my two supervisors and 2 colleagues who’d just done their practice talks, went as about as badly as I was expecting. The whole talk was pretty shaky to be honest.
But I went home, refined the slides and verbiage using the given advice and learnt it perfectly, or about as close as I could manage. And honestly the actual talk I think went fine. Okay I was probably talking too quickly and maybe I forgot to mention a couple of things but it was much less of a deal than I thought it would be. 50-odd people seemed much easier to present to when compared to a more intimate setting. In fact, I think everyone from my group spoke incredibly well and even if our talks were quite a bit different when compared to the mostly chemistry and material science topics being presented the prize for best talk was awarded to another nuclear instrumentationist (which is apparently not a real word) from my group, Lucy McAreavey.
Talks are something that happen a lot in academia, be they in group meetings, conferences or demonstrating, and it’s something that I always tried to avoid. And whilst now I wouldn’t exactly say that I enjoy them they’re no longer the big deal I thought them to be and I’ll feel a lot more confident the next time I have to do one, which is next week. I should probably go and make some slides…