Saturday, September 8, 2012

My 10 minutes of fame - I

My 8 10 minutes of fame

It all started in the end of july when I was making plans to attend my annual conference. This year I decided to to the UK, having already gone to Europe and US the last 2 years. So, there was this conference in Glasgow in September that I decided on. When I told my supervisor, he was quite happy coz he said he was going to this conference too. And I found that quite a few of my colleagues were going too. So, it would be a fun lab trip. That was that. It was decided.  I was going to Glagow!

How it usually works is that you send out your abstract (a brief summary of your research findings) and then the conference organizers choose a few of them for actual oral presentations and all the othes go into the poster category where you only present a poster, like I've been doing the last couple of years. So, quite certain that it would be the case this year as well, I submitted my abstract. Then we all started making plans for the trip and where we would travel afterward etc etc. A few days later, all my colleagues got their acceptance letters for posters but I didn't. I was just beginning to think that the unthinkable had happened and my abstract had been rejected (which almost never happens, coz they accept 98% of the abstracts). And then it came! The email which said my abstract had been chosen for an oral presentation. 

Ohhhh, the horror!! I have to make a presentation in front of a huge audience. I spent the next two days in shock, excitement, stress and then shock again. And there began my preparation of my slides, getting my data in good shape, presentation and practice. My supervisor was super proud and wanted to make sure I do a good job. He always said "You'll be fine. Just be yourself!". He made me prepare my slides well in advance , went through it in fine detail and then made me practice my actual presentation. The problem was, you see in such conferences, all the big shots get about 30 minutes to present but measly students/post docs get only 8 minutes. That was the tough part. Because you see, you have to give just a short introduction to your work, present all your good data, conclude and thank everyone, all in just 8 minutes. In all my practice sessions, no matter how many slides I cut down, how fast I spoke or how little I said about each slide, my presentation always took at least 10 minutes. I decided I'll take it as it comes and set off....

And then we came to Glasgow! Unlucky as I am, my talk was scheduled to be on the last day of the conference. So I had to bear the stress for 4 more days. And I couldn't actually enjoy Glasow much but I still did as much as i could, with the presentation in the back of my head. The day before the last day, there was a party which I had intended to skip, but my boss insisted that all of us go. And so I went. And I'm so glad I did. I had a ball. It's been a long time since I had that much fun at a party full of strangers. It's amazing to see all the scientists having so much fun. It seemed that they were actually for real. The serious speakers and sharks drinking, letting their hair down and having a good time. It was a fun party with 3 parallel sessions of different music, one of them of course being the Scottish pipes, with the band called the red hot chilli pipers. 

Did I mention I did the Scottish dance, with my boss and other team members and of course the kilt-wearing pipers. We had a roaring good time. I'm glad I went to the party for another reason, it took my mind off the stress for the talk. We partied until late and as soon as I went back, I was fast asleep. I had a dream though, that I went to present and my slides weren't showing as they were prepared on a Mac and we had to use windows to present. So I said I'll just use my own computer. Then I couldn't find my adaptor and by the time I ran around looking for an adaptor, they said my time i.e 8 minutes were up. So I couldn't present any more.

When I woke up in a sweat, I realized it is THE day. My first thought was OMG!! I was stressed. I had intended to do a few more practice sessions but that didn't happen due to the party. But I told myself I had done it enough number of times, so much that even in my sleep I was running through my slides.I was going to be ok.

More to come. Watch this space!

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