My first conference – not the best impression

DePauw University

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to represent Bradley University at DePauw University’s 37th Annual Undergraduate Honors Conference for a paper I wrote about in the fall about intellectual property, specifically dealing with copyright, hot news misappropriation and the new waters being charted with certain court cases.

The key word in that sentence being had.

In comparison to the other individuals or teams that presented their papers, I felt like I came drastically unprepared. Others had crafted outlines and even PowerPoint presentations about their work. The first team consisted of a guy who wants to be a TV host, so he knows how to address people. I’m guessing every other person in my group has presented his or her research before. And if not for their particular topic, then at least at some other point in their four years.

I apparently missed a memo. Yes, my acceptance letter asked we prepare a presentation 10-15 minutes long. However, the presentation was called informal. To me, that means we give a general overview of what we did and then people ask questions. Over and done in 15 minutes. I guess what I’m trying to say is that informal – to me – means that we didn’t have to prepare to the extent that my fellow group members did. Once the first two went, I knew this line of thought was a catastrophic mistake. I had no idea of what to talk about, so I tried to link it to one of the previous talks to segue into my sloppy mess.

I stuttered and stumbled over the work I’d done. Though proud of the paper I’ve put the most work into during my college career, I feel my presentation didn’t show that. I think I owed it to myself to have put in the effort to make my topic seem relevant and compelling. And I think I owed it to my other group members, who – after hearing all the ones after me – deserved more.

Before heading to Greencastle, Ind., for this conference at DePauw, I’d submitted the paper to the AEJMC conference in St. Louis this August. Now I’ll know how better to prepare if I’m accepted there.

Aside from my complete bomb of a presentation, the opportunity wasn’t a complete waste…

…The keynote speaker opening night was Dr. Philip Auslander from Georgia Tech. As I sat amongst a crowd of about 150 – mostly DePauw communications majors required to attend his address – I couldn’t help but notice that Dr. Auslander was reading his address word for word. I thought it was a bit odd. Even at a lecture, I think, guests should bring some kind of spontaneity in. But the other two visiting scholars – Dr. Amanda Lotz, who led my group, and Dr. Robert Terrill – read roughly half of their addresses, too. I’m still kind of confused by this. Maybe they want to make sure they articulate their exact points. At the end of the day though, I wish each had stopped along the way to break down his or her points. It’s not that I didn’t get the overall message. I just wish I’d had a little help along the way in the mental marathon that was deciphering what each was trying to say.

…Bradley isn’t a research institution. It’s a place to train you to get a job in the real world. I couldn’t figure out why everybody in my group seemed so much smarter than me. They clearly knew what they were talking about with research methods, coding data and doing things that I’ve had very little – if any – experience in. And then I remembered…I’ve never had a formal communications research class. I’ve learned a little bit about ethnography and coding data, but it seems only a distant cousin to the research that was being presented around the tables. Unfortunately, it took me until nearly the end of the last session to remember this. But I didn’t feel as bad about my lack of knowledge. It’s not that I’ve ignored it – I’ve just never had the opportunity to learn the types of things these other students had learned. This makes me look forward to taking a research methods class in the fall.

…My paper was also different than everyone else’s. Everybody else did some kind of analysis gleaned from surveys, content or somewhere else. I just used court cases and quoted people yelling back and forth on the Internet.

Little 5

…After my less-than-compelling presentation, all I wanted to do was be by myself for awhile. I really could’ve used a workout, but instead I walked around DePauw’s campus and downtown a bit, even checking out the Little 5 bike sprints. The campus looks like a real university campus with similar buildings, unlike Bradley’s hodge-podge of structures. I sat in the lobby for awhile reading the Indy Star and the USA Today, thinking maybe I’d see somebody that I’d eaten with at some point in the day. See, the hotel had put me in an area with no other students, that I’d noticed. I don’t even think I had neighbors, though Tiger the Dog’s present in front of my door when I checked out made me realize I wasn’t totally alone. Not having seen anybody, I retired to my room, where I watched the insightful Foo Fighters documentary on VH1 before getting some sleep.

…Besides, all I really wanted to do was rest anyway. I’d been working hard for the last month – especially the last two weeks – on America Live!, staying up past my bedtime too many nights in a row in order to complete the commercials that will air during the show. As I told some of the theatre students attending the conference at lunch Friday, I have a whole new appreciation for what theatre folks do.

…The most helpful sessions were the final two on Saturday. Dr. Lotz talked about weighing options of a career versus grad school, as did the panel of Lotz, Auslander, Terrill, a guy who apparently had a Ph.D. who was never formally introduced and Dr. Kent Menzel, who oversaw the running of the conference. Even though I’m not 100 percent decided on grad school at this point, it was nice hearing viewpoints and tips from professors who were essentially complete strangers.

…Since returning home, I’ve talked to my adviser whose class I wrote the paper for and he’s given me some helpful tips for grad school. I know what level I need to be on – I just need to get there.

By Adam Bockler

Adam Bockler is a B2B marketing professional, a DDP Yoga instructor, a personal trainer, a multi-time USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductee, a blood donor, and many other things.

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