Blog Contributor: Madison Lepp
Imagine this: standing in a room full of academics waiting for you to give a presentation on your research. Apprehensively awaiting the commentary that will follow. Unsure of whether those listening will find your research topic intriguing. Now imagine the opposite, and that is what presenting at the Brock Mapping New Knowledge (MNK) Graduate Research Conference was like. Presenting one’s ideas can be a daunting task at any stage in their academic career, especially at the beginning of one’s academic journey. In April I decided to participate in Brock’s 17thannual MNK Graduate Research Conference. The conference is aimed at showcasing the different research happening on the Brock campus. The space was inclusive, welcoming, and ultimately allowed me to improve my skillset and thesis.
A bit of a background: I just completed my second semester of the Masters of Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) program at Brock. I am currently researching my thesis titled building climate resilience and climate equity in Canadian municipalities. For me, presenting at this conference was the first big step in my graduate degree where I would put my ideas on the line. Through the experience of both finishing my first two semesters of the program and presenting at my first conference I learned a few things…
A level of uncertainty is okay.
It can be easy to compare yourself to others, doubt your abilities, and feel like you are not good enough to be where you are – hello imposters syndrome. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have this feeling in the past year but, one thing that drew me to the SSAS program was the level of openness the program offers. Through countless discussions on the topic, I have concluded that feeling uncertain should not make you an imposter and is completely normal. The supportive culture of the program has helped me channel this self-doubt into positive motivation. When presenting at the MNK conference I used this positive outlook, knowing that many other students presenting at the conference were in the same place as I.
Only practice makes perfect.
Odds are the first time you present something it will not be perfect, but that’s okay. Preparing to defend my research by presenting at this conference was a great way for me to prepare. After two years of presenting online, the MNK conference provided opportunity to brush up on my in-person presentation skills. I can only hope that the next time I present it will go even better than the first. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable is important in improving performance. I am glad that my first experience of being uncomfortable in my masters was in such an inclusive space.
Avoiding (constructive) criticism gets you nowhere.
Let’s be honest, no one truly likes receiving criticism and although being confident in your work is important, accepting criticism is an opportunity to improve your work. Through multiple applications and presentations of my ideas to colleagues, the first draft of my thesis proposal has changed a great deal – and for the better. The MNK conference was yet another opportunity to get feedback on my thesis. Through the engagement of the audience, I came to improve my thesis proposal once again. Using critiques of your work can be an important step to improve ideas.
Although daunting, the experience of presenting at the MNK conference was highly beneficial and gave me a chance to elaborate on my thesis research proposal while providing me with the space to enhance skills I will use in the future. I am excited to see how my work will evolve over the next year and am eager to participate in next year’s MNK conference.