Last week is now a blur – Benthics went by much too quickly. This was my second time attending the conference; the first time I went was two years ago when it was held at my alma mater (for my masters), UNC Wilmington. I gave an oral presentation both times – and although I felt a bit less nervous leading up to the presentation this year, by the time I got up to give my talk I had butterflies – and the presentation itself flew by. In fact, when I finished my talk, I was so shocked that I had not gone over my 15 minute time limit, I figured I must have forgotten to say a bunch of stuff. I was happy that I got a number of questions from the audience – but not having prepared answers in advance, that part did not go as well as I would have hoped. But, in the end I got some great feedback from people and made some new contacts, so it seems the other benthic ecologists were quite forgiving!
Leading up to a meeting, it’s my natural instinct to think, “do a poster!” After all, you still get to go to the meeting, interact with the other scientists, and get some feedback – with the bonus that it is a more informal presentation format. The idea of presenting a talk and getting up in front of a group of scientists (of unknown backgrounds with unpredictable questions) and presenting your work (a very personal endeavor) can be quite scary. At the conference, it was apparent that many faculty, who have been doing this for years, are at ease and animated in front of a large audience (at least, they make it look easy). I am nowhere near that stage, but while it is intimidating, giving presentations is an important step towards confronting the fear of public speaking. What you may learn is that you can have some slip ups and in the end, not only do you survive, but some people might even come up to you and share their excitement about your work. I figure, do that enough and eventually messing up a little isn’t something you need to spend your time worrying about. Looking back at the questions I wish I had answered better, I like to think of it as a learning experience so that I can better prepare for sharing my research in the future.
The major benefit of giving a talk is the ability to share your work with a broader audience. This means it’s more likely that people who know something about what you do can give you some feedback, and people interested in working with you can approach you with ideas. Whether you decide to give a talk or present a poster, the most important thing is getting out there and talking with other people. The people who know a lot about your field can help you with analyses and keep you up-to-date on how other researchers are approaching similar questions, and the people who are not familiar with your subject are great for providing a real-world perspective and for learning how to explain the importance of your research to others. The MSC had an impressive showing at Benthics this year with about ten excellent talks and posters by students, our postdoc, faculty and collaborating students who did their fieldwork at Nahant. At the banquet on the final day of the conference, it was announced that next year’s meeting will be held in Savannah at Georgia Southern University. Hope to see you presenting your research there!