From Philly with Love

Welcome from rainy, windy Philadelphia. I’ve been down here the past couple of days for the biennial meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence. Below I will list an eclectic mix of quick travel, research, and conference thoughts:

  • Here’s a painfully obvious, but oft neglected list of essentials when it comes to preparing your paper symposium and/or related conference presentations.
    • Be intellectually interesting. At least try to provide a solid theory-research connection to your work. I didn’t fly 500 miles and spend $800 so that you could give me a dumbed down version of your work. If you don’t know what I’m talking about… at least nail the following:
    • Be visually interesting in a minimalist way. Edward Tufte would have had a field day here. Pictures, videos, and graphs are good, especially if you’re not as intellectually interesting. I’m easily distracted and amused by even bad visual cues, but don’t just toss up really complicated data outputs or small-fonted graphs/charts. Fully explain what is up there. If you can’t explain it quickly, don’t use it. Use a simple PPT design, less is more. At the very least, have your PPT set up and ready before the presentation. I don’t want to see your cluttered desktop while you fumble with monitor mirroring or getting all the presentations onto one laptop.
    • Be relationally interesting. Make me laugh. Make me feel like you care. Make me feel like you care that I’m there. Don’t wait until the end of the symposium to elicit my response with a weak, “ok, now we have time for a couple questions (but don’t ask anything too in-depth because our presentation isn’t that intellectually deep)”.
    • Be prepared. I cannot understand why conference organizers do not require more materials to be submitted and reviewed beforehand for non-invited presentations. If you’d be embarrassed to present it to your reappointment committee, don’t present it to me at a national conference.
    • Be concise. You will go over time. I repeat, you will go over time on your presentation. Time it out and work on making it as tight and concise as possible. It’s always awkward when you can tell that the other presenters in your symposium are embarrassed at your verboseness. If you can’t be concise, inform a co-presenter to rip the mic out of your hands when you go over time–and laugh when they do it (i.e., don’t act like they just stole your tenure from you).
    • At the very least, show me that you care about your work and you are trying hard to disseminate it well to the larger research community. Many of the above sins can be forgiven if I can tell that you really tried and care (especially if you are a fellow grad student). Not everyone is a dynamic speaker (I’m certainly not), but know that and accentuate what you can do well.
    • Humor is a great balm.
  • The movie “National Treasure” is built on a promising thematic foundation, but entirely butchers that potential with Nicolas Cage and horrific, cheesy, outlandish writing. With that said, it’s a pretty sweet movie when it comes on TV the first night you are visiting Philly and you get to see all the historical locations you hope to visit.
  • There was exactly one symposium at SRA having to do with adolescent development and technology/media use/social networking… and I slept in and missed it.
  • If you’re the grad students presenting in a symposium, don’t go longer than the established profs.
  • I’m sick of being “the student”. It’s time to get a job and new title.
  • American history is fascinating and a working knowledge of it by the citizenry is essential to the strength of our democracy. It’s unfortunate that most international students I know have a better grasp on the foundations of our country than native born citizens.
  • No wireless in presentation rooms?? How am I supposed to engage with my network of research associates at the conference in a meaningful, real-time dialogue (i.e., Facebook games)?
  • If your main rationale for your study goes something like, “researchers are increasingly finding” OR “_____ has been getting increased attention”, then you better back it up with some real facts. As well, keep in mind that, especially in more niche research enclaves, this should be a small part of your rationale. Let me be the judge of whether your work matters. Present a good case. Locate it in the larger body of research and tell me what you think is most interesting, relevant about your topic. Just don’t use a cliche and expect it to really stick.
  • Call me a small town boy, but fresh air is completely underrated.
  • Give me an easy way to follow up on your work after the conference is over. Getting e-mailed your PPT is OK, but it would be great it you had a website, which would direct me to more of your work. There was lots of stuff created that will never again see the light of day. That is sad.
  • If you’re going to do a whole symposium on narrative research and digging into narrative inquiry as a form of research design, then go whole hog at it. I guarantee the 5 of us who showed up for your talk weren’t too interested in having you shoe-horn this method into a quantitative framework. I missed another really good session during that time slot, and I’m still a bit bitter.
  • What’s up with Starbucks serving weak coffee? Although my sample size was small, it was quite obvious that Starbucks coffee was weaker here. Perhaps it has to do with the absolute infestation of Dunkin Donuts and their pathetic offering of weak “premium” coffee, which brings me to…
  • I’ve never seen more Dunkin Donuts in my life. There were 5 within a 1/4 mile of our hotel. You’d have thought Benjamin Franklin invented the glazed doughnut or something.

Photo Credit:

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