This Saturday, after much panic and stress, I successfully made my first oral presentation at a professional meeting! I have done presentations before, during my MS I gave invitational department seminars and, of course, my defense. But until this point whenever I went to professional meetings, I always had a poster presentation, not a talk! Granted this was a smaller, broad all science in the state meeting and not the international scale I used to attend, but I got to SPEAK! Give my own 12 minute talk.. on a project that is barely getting started. Hence the panic and stress.
As anyone following the blog knows, my research is going really slowly because my soybeans grow really slowly. The idea of standing up in front of people with the little bit of story I have so far was terrifying to me. But by pulling out some of the previous, nonpublished work that led to the creation of our soybeans I was able to put together a pretty nice story.
The conference ran from 8 - 6, with oral presentations from 9:15 - 12, 3:15-4:20. My talk was slated for 4pm, the very last time slot for the sessions. This is not the ideal time slot, where the morning sessions are usually fairly well attended, the later sessions are not. Of course this can be an advantage because the later sessions are not well attended ;)
I worked all week on getting slides together, scripting, practicing, editing... it was almost all consuming. I presented to the lab twice, got lots of great feedback that resulted in even MORE edits. Friday night, I was making new figures/graphics to add to the presentation and tweaking the text yet again. I printed out tiny slides with notes and managed to get all 18 slides onto front/back single sheet of paper that I could fold into my purse to review on Saturday.
Around 3 on Saturday I found a nice bench to lay on in the hotel and read over/practice my notes again. At this point I found a way to improve my slides and talk once again. So I made my way to the presentation room, right before the session started, so I could make an edit an HOUR before my talk! My editing/polishing side needs to simmer down :)
I could not focus on the talk before mine, I was lost in my notes trying to make sure I remembered everything I was sure I would forget. My stomach was rolling in a sea of bile and I altered back and forth between cramps and the desire to vomit. After the lady before me finished taking questions, I walked up, pressing my hands to my legs to keep them from shaking, loaded my presentation and took a deep breath. Then launched into my pre-planned opening statements. As always, the initial adrenaline spike of looking an audience in the face was enough to overpower my nerves and we bounced energetically forward. I hardly looked back at my lab, the sight of my advisor made me too nervous, but I did let my eyes meet with everyone else in the room. There were a few really nice smiles and attentive looks that helped keep my nerves from coming back. I got chuckles and smirks when I was aiming for them and questions that showed people were really paying attention and absorbing what I had to say. Some good feedback at the end from both the lab and strangers in the audience. Overall it was a very successful first talk!