The fear

Conference season is well and truly upon us, and this week marks the second and third outings for my poster presentation. The first, a couple of weeks ago, went well and I had a lot of good feedback both on my poster and on my research project as a whole. Phew. That particular conference was one based entirely on the research methodology I am using in the PhD, so the poster didn’t look out of place. Today I’ll be putting my poster on display at a very different type of conference, where it will remain under scrutiny for the next three days. There’s a good chance that few delegates will have experience of my chosen methodology, but the subject of my research is pertinent to the event.  
Putting yourself and your research ‘out there’ is daunting. Who knows what others will make of it? The opportunity to get feedback is, however, well worth the effort and fear. One of the keynote speakers at this particular conference just so happens to be one of the key researchers in my subject area. It was one point among the many, made in the work about which she will be talking this week, that gave me my research question. Her work gave me the push I needed to rethink what I was researching and helped me find my ‘gap’. I didn’t know she was presenting when I submitted my proposal for this conference, and at the time of my submission, I wasn’t convinced my poster was really relevant to the conference. I took a chance – I was paying to have the poster printed for another conference so I might as well see if it was accepted elsewhere. When the poster was accepted, and I got hold of the programme, I was delighted. Not only is this an important conference for my subject area of education, but now I would have the chance to listen, and hopefully speak to, one of the key people behind my PhD research (even if she doesn’t know it).  
This time last year, I don’t think I’d have had the confidence to put myself ‘out there’. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve presented at conferences in the past. In fact, I’ve presented at this conference in the past. The difference with presenting the PhD, however, is that this is all me. It’s about my ideas and my work. In the past, my presentations have tended to be about work that I’ve completed with colleagues. I still have colleagues, one is presenting her work today as well, but the work I’m presenting this time is all mine. Scary.  
I’m not scared of much. Heights? No. Spiders? No. People on stilts? Yes, but thankfully they’re fairly uncommon. Having my PhD research scrutinised by lots of very knowledgeable and intelligent people? Wait while I reach for my trainers and get the heck out of here.  
As I’m getting ready to leave for the conference, I’m forcing myself to think about what I would be saying to my students if they were in my position. Feedback is a good thing. Even if someone points out a flaw, maybe particularly if someone points out a flaw, that will help my final research. Oh yeah, and there’s a drink waiting at the end of it (that one is just for me, not my students).
Wish me luck!

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