Keeping to time

Keeping to time in a conference presentation should be fairly simple but it happens in panel after panel. 

It’s conference season, and if you travel to a conference to present your research (you might chose not to for environmental reasons or you might be unable to due to visa refusals or childcare obligations) you get the rare opportunity for different academics from all over the world to interact, ask questions, offer alternative perspectives. This is why it is important to leave space for discussions, so everyone can engage, and create productive synergies:  holding endless monologues is both individually and collectively irrational.

Additionally, the tendency to go over the allotted time is racialized and gendered. For example, male presenters often act more entitled with regards to time, including arguing with or ignoring the time-keepers or session chairs.

So if you repeatedly go over time,  Step 1: acknowledge you have a problem. The longer you go over time, the less time there is for others, and the more the audience stops listening to what you are saying and starts thinking “when do we get coffee?” and “should I try to sneak out early to go to the loo before a queue forms?”

So be sensitive to feedback. Mostly, this feedback is nonverbal: posture, glances at each other, glances at the door/ clock, hobbling on the chair, closing notebooks/ notepads, etc. (Neil Postman in Janet Sternberg 2006).

Step 2: Lower expectations of what you want to get through. Your presentation is not necessarily a spoken version of your paper and does not have to cover all of the same points.  When the chair asks you to stop, do come to an end.

With thanks to Alice Evans and Andrew Little.

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