I just epic failed a conference presentation. You could see the intense pity on the faces of all the audience members, who did their best to applaud noisily and thank me for the “interesting” presentation.

OK. What I have learned….

(I.) I cannot look down on people who BS and do alot of academic posturing, and resolve to “always be honest and open”…. ….and then expect to ALSO look like an intelligent and competent human being when I have nothing brilliant to say in my presentation. Of course I looked like an idiot. I had nothing to say–no great discovery to make.

(II.) If I’m not going to use fancy words, then I will only look smart when I have a brilliant discovery to share. When I don’t, I will have nothing to hide my non-discovery lameness in. Serves me right. If I’m going to stubbornly refuse to posture, I also need to accept the humiliation that goes along with non-posturing-when-you’re-not-a-genius.

(III.) I cannot “wing it” in stressful situations. I need a script. Yes, it looks dull to read from a paper the whole time…. but people who are talking extemporaneously from a slide either appear (A) brilliant and engaging, or (B) complete idiots repeating themselves and blanking on basic words. And I’m not in the (A) category….

(IV.) Looking stupid is a painful experience for both the person and the viewers. I made everyone suffer alongside me, who had to watch.

(V.) I need to re-evaluate my attitude towards academia. I either need to (A) Learn to posture and be a part of the community, (B) cheerfully accept the humiliation that goes with looking like an Idiot, and not apologize for it (because I chose it!). I can’t have my cake and eat it too. I either need to let go of (1) my ego or (2) my anti-jargon/posturing ideology.


5 thoughts on “So….

  1. I mean, let go of your ego, and keep your anti posturing ideology. If you need encouragement, just read the Hrossa’s interpretation of Weston’s inspiring speech in Out of the Silent Planet.

  2. I think/hope there’s some sort of middle ground? It’s always seemed silly to me that conference presentations have to be grand discoveries. If you have a grand discovery, it makes a lot more sense to write it down / present it in a way that it reaches more than just a small room of people!

    I think the concept that every idea has to be ground-breaking is what really inspires the jargon in academia. People have an average idea but then feel the need to make it sound profound or impressive by couching it in inscrutable language. But even brilliant people have mediocre ideas, and that should be considered totally okay! That’s what conferences are for, they should be for workshopping ideas that aren’t yet all the way there. Not having a brilliant idea should never equate to looking like an idiot.

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