Tips & Advice
The tips and advice below were originally published as “Alex Babione’s Tips for New Attendees” for the 2002 Computers and Writing Conference.
Even the experts were once beginners
We all had to write our first paper to present. We had to figure out which clothes to wear. We were nervous. We were ignorant. We were brave. Some of us were spectacular the first time we gave a paper. Most of us were ordinary. We buried our noses in our typed sheets, afraid to look at the audience. We did not want to lose our place. We weren’t cool.
Questions flatter the presenter. Ask for clarification if you do not understand. The more challenging the questions, the livelier the discussion. No question is stupid, though you may think that it is. Questions give the presenter an opportunity to elaborate. But also the questions help to verify the presenter’s grasp of information. Challenge, explore, and listen.
Speak out in sessions; Share what you know
Do you know something about the topic? Speak out. Share your knowledge. Let others know you have researched the topic. Make people listen to you, no matter how brief the time.
Introduce yourself to those you admire and want to get to know
See someone in the hall or dining room you want to know on a first-name basis? Take a deep breath and introduce yourself. Sure you might say that dumb comment you wanted to avoid, but you also have said, “Hi, I want to get to know you.” Sure, you take a risk, but so what? Just do it!
Shy, timid, speechless?
Find your mentor and arrange for your mentor to introduce you. Join a group and stand or sit quietly until the time is right, then ask your question or make a comment. People will take notice, look at your name tag, and perhaps even ask where you are from.
Attend the social events and walk around. Appear interested. Speak to those you do know and, again, ask to be introduced. Ask you mentor to introduce you. During meals, sit at tables where you do not know people. Sure, it’s awkward, but most people will welcome you.