An SFN Open Letter

To the nervous guy on the shuttle (and indeed, to any person nervous about giving a presentation in their field),
Breathe. Drink some tea. It’ll be ok. In a few hours, it’ll all be over.
And remember this: No one knows your stuff better than you do. No one, because you’re the one who did it, with your own grubyy little paws. If you’re a fifth year graduate student, you may very well know more about your project than your advisor. So do not worry, do not fret. Unless you meet a total jerk, no one is going to try and one-up you at your poster. They will ask you questions, sure. They might ask you stuff that you don’t know. But that’s ok! They want to make your mind and your project move in new directions. They don’t want to cut you down, and they certainly don’t want you to fail at your presentation!
So don’t feel bad, don’t stress. And above all, try very hard not to stay up ALL night before your presentation running it over and over (unless, of course, you really don’t know it). Be good little neuroscientists. We ALL know that a night without sleep doesn’t help your presentation, even if it was a night spent preparing. Sleep will help you far more.
So breathe, relax. Trust in yourself. You know your stuff, and you need to believe that you know it. So get a good night’s sleep, and go get ’em, neuroscientist!

7 Responses

  1. Hah! People will try to one-up your poster all the time!

  2. Not to make anyone nervous or anything, but people sometimes do try to trip you up, or vent their disagreement with some other researcher in “your team”, or use your presentation as a showcase for their own ideas.
    I’ve been at a presentation where a heckler started disagreeing with the poor graduate student at the title slide of the talk. Literally – he started arguing about whether the groups’ name really reflected the nature of the work being presented and whether the author list was an accurate representation of who had done the work.

  3. Unless you meet a total jerk, no one is going to try and one-up you at your poster.

    I know you are trying to be encouraging, but there will be plenty of one-upmanship at poster sessions. This post at Thesis With Children describes on such incident:
    http://kidsndata.blogspot.com/2008/03/maintaining-decorum.html
    In the comments, I made the following suggestions for how to defuse attempted one-upmanship:

    The way to get rid of fucknozzles like this dude–either at a talk, poster, or group meeting–once a subtle approach is clearly not working is to simply say, “Ah, I see you are either unfamiliar with or misunderstanding some important background here. I’d be happy to help you with it if you contact me later, but this is not the appropriate context.”
    If he persists, you just keep repeating, “I’m sorry, but this is not an appropriate context for me to help you with that. Please feel free to contact me later.”
    By making use of your power as the presenter and characterizing it as you “helping” him with his “unfamiliarity” or “misunderstanding”, you maintain the upper hand. And once the moment has passed, witnesses will almost certainly not remember the actual scientific content and who was correct; all they’ll remember is that some douchehound was unfamiliar with or misunderstanding some important shit.

  4. That sounds like good advice; repeating the exact same words with no change in emotion, just the sort of patient kindness you’d use when trying to convince a three-year-old that yes, you need your coat on before we can go out, adds something to the effect as well.

  5. That sounds like good advice; repeating the exact same words with no change in emotion, just the sort of patient kindness you’d use when trying to convince a three-year-old that yes, you need your coat on before we can go out, adds something to the effect as well.

  6. Sigh..it’s true. You guys are right. Sci knows it, but I was trying to build some confidence. The reality is that there ARE people out there who are going to try and tear your research down. I like to call these people jerks. I recommend PPs advice for getting rid of them, though another, easier method is if your advisor is in the area and willing to help you out.

  7. Whether you get encouragement or disparagement, how about this reaction: Who the hell cares?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: