Once you have made the decision to embark on putting your research ‘out there’ for others to see and hear, you need to decide where to do so. There are a range of forums through which you can choose from large national and international conferences often hosted by disciplinary academies to smaller research workshops, seminars or conferences organised by more niche or specialist research groups. Within these, many organisations will host events and colloquia aimed specifically at doctoral researchers, which vary considerably, to the elements of these events generally intended for ‘competitive’ research presentations.
There are a number of reasons why you may want to consider a doctoral event to your presentation. These events often have a friendlier, more collegiate atmosphere as they are usually staffed by researchers with a very specific interest in, or passion for, the development of doctoral students in to researchers, and attended by a collection of doctoral students. This can sometimes mean that the feedback is given in a friendlier, supportive manner, than the kind of feedback received by researchers presenting work at full conference. There can often be an ‘all in it together’ sort of mentality at these events given that all the presenters are doctoral students, often feeling the same nerves and apprehensions about presenting their work. At full conference you might well be presenting in a session alongside two established professors for whom presenting research has become second-nature.
This is not to say that presenting at full conference should be seen as a very scary or daunting prospect in comparison. Even at full conference other researchers will usually acknowledge that your research is developing, as are you, and afford you more room for errors, nerves etc. than they might an established researcher. Even when reviewing the work of other established researchers most conference attendees want to provide constructive and useful feedback to aid their peers rather than pick out errors or challenge researchers in a particularly nasty or competitive manner.
My first presentation experiences came at a large academy conference, which attracts over 1,000 delegates to full conference. At this event I first participated in a doctoral colloquium presenting a summary of my PhD project and gaining some constructive feedback which affirmed my work’s value and gave me new things to consider. Following this I gave a presentation at full conference of a research project I was involved in aside my PhD, feeling much more confident having given a presentation earlier in the week, and again had a positive experience with attendees providing constructive comments for the development of the work.
Picture by Luke Rosenberger under CC license.