Monday, 13 April 2015

On Surviving Academic Conferences

Am I the only person to have a love/hate relationship with academic conferences? On the one hand, I love hearing discussions generated by the presentations. But on the other hand, at the end of the day, I usually find that I’m the one standing in the middle of the crowded bar holding a Diet Pepsi while everyone else and her dog have found their intellectual soulmates and are deep in conversation. And yes, this is my experience tonight. I don’t think I’ve downed a Diet Pepsi so quickly for quite some time – and I drink a lot of the stuff.

I’m at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Theology, held this year in the University of Nottingham’s Trent Building. I’ve reacquainted myself with some friends, some of whom I’ve met before outside of a Facebook setting, and enjoyed dinner with two Anglican bishops. But once the formal proceedings of the meeting began – that is, when the first scheduled paper was summarised and debated – I realised how uncomfortable I felt. I was too warm, I couldn’t hear very well, and, frankly, I was suddenly very tired. Maybe the adrenaline had finally finished pumping through my body. Or maybe my tiredness was due more to the fact that for the last few nights I’ve been staying up late re-watching The Walking Dead to take advantage of Amazon Prime’s 30-day trial period before it runs out. And now look at me – bashing out a blog post on surviving academic conferences, when I could – should – be sleeping!

Part of the reason why I’m at SST this year is to pimp my services as a proofreader, especially to postgrads. But the problem with networking is that it takes courage and a nerve that I don’t always possess. Last week, I read Matt Bird’s Relationology, which was an inspiring read, to get me in the mood; but in the cold light of day (or in the tepid atmosphere of a conference hall), I suspect that Bird hasn’t really taken the phenomenon of introversion into account. Perhaps I’ll feel more motivated after a good night’s sleep . . .

So I’ll admit now that this blog post isn’t really about surviving academic conferences at all. I haven’t survived SST yet. But tomorrow is another day, and the papers look good. Maybe I’ll blog a review of the day or something tomorrow night – unless I happen to find my intellectual soulmate in the bar and have reason to make my pint of Diet Pepsi last longer than five minutes.

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