Love conferences, hate conferences, doesn’t matter, as a PhD student, you’re likely attend quite a few and present at them too. It is hard capture your research in a 20-minute presentation, but it’s worth the effort to see your words grow wings. Read Bernie’s story… 

I have very mixed feelings about conferences.  I’ve never arrived at a conference in the company of anyone I know, so I’ve generally gone into the customary pre-conference coffee session having to make rapid connections, which is something I tend to be a bit uncomfortable with.  However, on the other side of the coin is the joy of meeting new people and making interesting friendships, which I suppose is one of my favourite things about conferences!

I’ve been at a conference in Nottingham, on the very campus where I was a student at the beginning of my PhD.  I knew quite a lot of the people organising the conference – I worked with several of them during my midwife years, and obviously during the course of the PhD have met various members of the midwifery academic department at Nottingham.  So this was quite a departure – although I walked into the conference on my own, I knew there would be familiar faces.

Even more significantly, some of the midwives who undertook the leadership course I’ve included in my research were sitting in the conference hall when I presented my paper.  This was simultaneously nerve-wracking and satisfying – after all, if the findings ring true to the participants, then I must be doing something right!

As it turned out, the paper seemed to resonate with a lot of the audience, and I received a lot of positive feedback and comments around, ‘Oh, you could totally apply that to my experiences…’ I drove home in a state of utter happiness, although a little worried that I might have to re-structure my data chapters more around liminal space, as it seemed such an interesting concept to the audience – but that’s a worry for another day!

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Image Credits: Paul Chiorean/CC BY  2.0

The main thing was how I felt in the act of sending words out into the world – the title of this post, being about growing wings, was exactly how it seemed to me.  I’ve spent three years building up to this – a time when I can encapsulate the research into a 20-minute presentation that makes sense to the audience it’s aimed at.  It really did feel like the words just flowed out into the room and landed in the place they were meant to be.  A fanciful description maybe, but one that sums up how I felt as I was speaking.

So, re-structuring aside, I’ve found this a hugely enjoyable and powerful conference experience.  Next stop, the Royal College of Midwives conference in November, where similar words will go out to a slightly different audience.  I’m hoping the bird will fly again…

Bernie Divall

This post was first published here, and to learn more about Bernie’s work, visit her blog The Travels of Doctor B.

Do you have any conference talks you were particularly happy with? How did you words grow wings? Let us know in the comments. 🙂