Giving my first conference talk

I went to yet another doctoral student conference – the NeuroDoWo (Neuroscience Doctoral Student Workshop), which was held in Cologne this year. For the first time, I travelled to a conference without a poster roll, but with a powerpoint on my laptop. I had decided to present a fairly complex but pretty cool experiment, for a talk slot of 15min plus 5min questions. Since the experiment was complex, it had hardly ever worked so far, so I could take time to explain the rationale properly (which I had thought about quite a bit!). Nevertheless I found one data point where surprisingly, everything had worked out – so I presented with an n of one (well, that’s better than n=zero, right?).

I actually quite enjoy giving talks – it does not make me nervous, maybe because I’ve experienced much worse stage fright when playing the violin. At the NeuroDoWo, the audience was very friendly too – ‘only’ PhD students, no post-docs/PIs/faculty, and the organisers did a great job at running the whole conference smoothly in a friendly atmosphere. I was pleasantly surprised by the general level of the talks that my fellow students gave – a lot of them had obviously thought about what they wanted to get across and how. Well done! My polishing of the talk into a smooth explanation of what I do, why I do it and how I do it also paid off – I got encouraging feedback, and even managed to snatch one of the three prizes for talks! The prize was a poster roll (and a glass for drinking Kölsch, the local beer), so I went home with a poster roll after all!

I was also happy to see that all three invited plenary speakers were women – not that they necessarily give better talks, but it is a nice change! The talks were indeed good and I went ahead and sent the names of these women to be added to Anne’s list. Having worked in two departments with only one female group leader and all male professors, it is encouraging to see that female professors exist and are doing a good job.

Next year, the NeuroDoWo will be held in Bielefeld, since that was the city with the highest number of participants (after Göttingen, but it was in Göttingen 2 years ago). Fellow Munich students, take note: if you turn up in numbers next year, you might have to organise the 2017 edition of the NeuroDoWo!

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