Invites are pretty great. Or sometimes pretty awful. If I was to be completely honest most invites I get, which I could probably individually list, come with at least a moment of [insert Sideshow Bob grumble].
It’s not that being invited somewhere isn’t excellent. It’s just that invites usually come attached with meeting people and people … well, I’m a big fan of humanity but having to meet new humans who happen to make up the humanity is the worst. (I know, it’s my flaw to fix.)
It’s part of the academic routine though so I’m actually pretty pleased to be invited as a speaker for the first time. Not that I’ve never done a speaking thing before. This time I’m one of the speakers who has to work though. It’s a bit daunting.
So as part of the ‘documentation of new academic things’ purpose of having this site, following is the brief list of “things being invited to speak has taught me about life, the universe and cephalopods throwing things at each other“. Actually there isn’t much it’s given me on the topic of “thing throwing cephalopods”. I’ll just have to settle for less excellent life lessons.
1. Embrace Things You Did Not Want
Early on I was given the opportunity to nominate things I might like to chat about. This is a conference for people who do the sleeping thing for kids remember. My list included anaesthesia for heart and lung operations, liver transplant stuff, trauma care and prehospital medicine.
My main topic, the one for my solo 20 minute talk is “Anaesthesia in patients with hepaticopancreaticobiliary disease having non-hepaticopancreaticobiliary surgery”. That milkshake should bring all the docs to the yard.
So at first I was a little lost. The thing is it’s their show and I’m there to contribute. This is a topic that actually has a lot of worthwhile stuff in it. Some of that stuff might also be a new title though.
2. Speaking is Hard Work
I have had the chance to do a single talk or workshop at a conference before. It takes time. In total I’m up for 4 sessions over 3 days this time around. That’s a huge step up in preparation. Apart from the session above there’s a 3 hour workshop that I’ll pitch in on, a breakfast session to chat about stuff you learn on aid trips and a joint talk on social media stuff. It’s really driving me to prepare a lot harder.
3. Do Better Talks
I’ve been to a few conferences. Sometimes there are a few speakers who leave me wondering if the conference mints could be manipulated to make them corrosive enough to burn a hole in the floor to allow an early escape. I do not want to be one of those speakers.
So for now I’m going to try to do better. I think some of this relies on not starting with the slides but starting more broadly with an arc that works for the audience. There’s a bunch of stuff I like about a blog I came across via a paediatric surgeon working in the UK who does a lot of the writing, Ross Fisher. It has short snippets of ideas for better presentations. A lot of it is heavily less is more. This could best be described as not my natural turf.
Better talks. It’s a work in progress.
4. Actually Do The Conference
I’ve read things elsewhere about the way people who really “do” the conference thing approach it. They check the program, figure out particular highlights, do electronic introductions ahead of time, arrange to meet particular speakers in advance and a range of similarly terrifying proactive things.
If you’re going to make the effort to go though I’m sure that’s a way to get a lot more out of being that close to all the stimulating people there. This time I will try to actually talk. To people even.
5. Seek Opportunities
Moving on from point 4, one of the good things about being an invited speaker is there’s been a fair bit of chat in advance about particular sessions. That degree of chat will hopefully make the talking to people bit easier.
The challenge might be to broaden that conversation. Ideally it would be good to get the chance to find other people working in similar bits of research. It’s a slightly lonely part of the world, noninvasive tissue oximetry monitoring.
Otherwise there will hopefully be all sorts of people I meet and given that this time I plan to talk to these people, it’s about time I took those chats to seek new inspirations and maybe a few chances to work with bright sparks from elsewhere.
All of which brings me to the informal point 6. I wrote this all down partly because it’s out there now. Which means I’m sort of committed to doing it.
It doesn’t mean I won’t have a back-up escape plan that somehow relies on the mints.
Note: That turtle hangs out on flickr in the Creative Commons area. It was posted by Rodney Lewis and is unaltered here.