Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ms. Peppercorn Considers: Various Issues for the First Time Presenter

October is nearly upon us and we are all gearing up for ASLH! One of the best things about this meeting, and about the Society more generally, is it's openness to graduate students and junior scholars. In this installment of our occasional advice column, "Ms. Peppercorn Considers," our wise colleague takes up various issues for the first time presenter. 
Dear Ms. Peppercorn:

I am a first time presenter at the 2015 ASLH annual meeting, and I have a few questions about how to prepare.  After all, we’re just weeks away from the big day!  In my one previous presentation at an in-house graduate conference at my university, I started with a little introduction of myself and my topic.  Is that too frivolous for ASLH?  Furthermore, how long should I plan to speak? Should I make a powerpoint?  And most important, what should I wear?


New Kid on the Block

Ms. Peppercorn's reply:
Dear NKotB:

Ms Peppercorn loves to SEE new scholars in the field making a presentation at ASLH.  It is a substantive and productive conference, and comments and questions deliver sharp-eyed critiques without the shellacking that Ms P has been distressed to see in some venues.

That said, frivolity is frowned upon, not just by your dedicated advice columnist, but by ASLH conference goers generally.  Thus Ms P recommends only the very shortest of introductions, perhaps to say that the paper you are presenting is part of your larger dissertation project.  But do NOT delay in getting to substance.  The selection process for papers and panels is competitive (unlike some other conferences which shall remain nameless) and the people who come to your panel want to here your argument and the evidence that supports it.   No dilly dallying!

One simply cannot compete with David Rabban.

In terms of a powerpoint, note that the Society has already answered this question for you: AV equipment will not be available at the 2015 conference.

Powerpoint slides, we want to add, are all too often just text that you will be saying anyway, which makes the presenter look like a business school or poli sci denizen.  Ms P counsels in the strongest terms against presentations of that ilk, even if they were allowed.

Finally, the matter of dress is one that legal historians generally do not spend much time on.  We tend to the more practical and less ostentatious side of things.  Jane Dailey and David Rabban set a high standard, to be sure, but the rest of us muddle along.  Ripped jeans might raise some eyebrows, as would shorts.  Bling of all kinds, too.

Ms P wishes NKotB the very best for this inaugural presentation among the good legal historians.  She also invites others in the field to add their mite to the discussion.
If would like to add your own words of wisdom, please do so in the comments. For other sage advice related to this topic, see Ms. Peppercorn's previous column on "How To Survive the Conference."