Monday, September 26, 2005

Danuta's do's and don'ts

With SBL's Annual Meeting looming, Stephen Carlson recommends that everyone read Danuta's Do's and Don'ts on how to give a conference paper. It's entertaining but also very useful. The sad thing is that there will be papers at this year's SBL that do not begin to think about some of these common sense suggestions. I've read through the list myself to pick up some useful tips; there's definitely something for everyone. I need to pay attention to the "Do not digress . . ." directive. That takes a lot of discipline and self-control. Planned, useful digressions can be useful, but the unplanned ones can end up being self-indulgent time-wasters.

I like the following "do" too:
Arrive early enough in your lecture-room to familiarize yourself with the mise-en-scène. Make sure the mike works. Ditto audiovisuals, as required.
I remember chairing a session in San Antonio at which I arrived drenched from the pouring rain, with only 10-15 minutes to spare, and problems with the speakers' Powerpoints. Coming earlier might not have given me time to solve all the problems, but at least I would have been less flustered.

I would want to add that the Danuta's do's and don'ts assume the reading of a paper rather than the presentation of a paper. That's unsurprising since the majority of conference papers are read rather than presented, but in the light of that, let me add one of my own "do"s:
Remember that there is a major difference between writing an article that is designed to be read silently by an individual and writing a paper that is designed to be heard publicly by an audience. The literary prose appropriate for the read-article should be different from the spoken-prose that is appropriate for the publicly-heard-paper. In general, avoid long sentences, and especially sentences with long parentheses that the hearer will miss. Aim to be concise, punchy and coherent.
Or words to that effect. I think that this is my major objection to many conference papers -- what we are getting is something that is not appropriate for the occasion but is, rather, something that has been prepared for publication and getting read out without any modification whatsoever.


Tim said...

Glad you are settling wellin the USA, and I'd second the comment about written and spoken language. Even if people feel they MUST read a paper, they could at least translate it into spoken language. (See Wayne's post at Better Bibles Blog about our PodBible project on the subject of translations for spoken and written English ;)

theswain said...

It's about you NT people caught up with us medievalists.....

Shanzer btw is now at UIUC