Conferences and interviews

For the past year I've been involved in the organisation of the 5th biennial Landscape Archaeology Conference, which is being held this week at Newcastle and Durham. It's a step up from organizing DIG2017 last year, which had around 100 participants, compared to LAC's estimated 300. The timing has been rather unfortunate for a number of reasons. Firstly my pregnancy, which means I was unable to attend the drinks reception at the wonderful Wylam Brewery. I love this venue and have been trying to get an event organised here for ages, so am a bit gutted I missed out on it. There are many people I would have liked to catch up with, including plenary speaker Dr Nicki Whitehouse.

But the main reason I've been absent from LAC is that I had another important event this week - an interview for an ERC consolidator grant, which happened to clash with the full day Geoarchaeology and Landscape session I was supposed to be co-chairing at LAC. Many thanks to Dr John Blong for taking over! I waited until after the interview to post this blog. I am never sure about discussing things until they are actually confirmed. But I thought, perhaps it would be useful to mention it, even if the outcome is not successful. It is easy to get into the habit of only talking about successes in academia, but I think it can be helpful to talk about when things don't work out as well. This is honestly the more usual situation, especially when it comes to grant applications, which have very low success rates. I've see a lot of discussion about how disheartening constant rejections are, and I think it's really important that anyone considering academia as a career realizes that this is always going to be a part of the job. The disappointment never goes away, but you learn to accept it and keep trying.

I am really encouraged that I even made it to the interview stage, which itself has a 20% success rate. The hardest thing about the interview was the complete unknown nature of it. The only guidance is a strict 10 minutes presentation to summarize yourself and your project, followed by 20 minutes of questions. But unlike other comparable situations, such as job interviews, there is no obvious set of questions to prepare for. Despite having 2 practice interviews, there was no way to predict the questions that actually came up. Because of my pregnancy I was unable to attend the interview in person in Brussels, and did it via video-conference. Not my best medium but I think I gave it a good shot, and having practiced doing a video presentation for the EAA a couple of weeks ago, I think I may be getting the hang of it.

An important bit of advice for anyone doing presentations, either in person or remotely is practice! This goes for any talk, conferences, lectures, interviews. I still feel like a numpty for talking enthusiastically to myself, but the best thing you can do is work your way through the discomfort. It really is true, the more you practice the more confident you will get, as you feel prepared and know that you can do it. I only recently started recording my presentations and playing it back to myself, which is a whole new level of cringeworthy. But it has really highlighted the positives and negatives of my presentation style, and I wish I had started doing this earlier!