The QI 2011 Experience: A Newbie’s Perspective (Part 2)

Now that I’m back home I’ve had some time and space to reflect on the rest of the QI experience, starting with my paper presentation…

On the day of the presentation I was a nervous wreck. Normally I’m ok with nerves but today, it was overwhelming to the point where I found myself standing near the doorway of the room I was to present in for at least 10 minutes, contemplating whether to do a runner. The minutes ticked by and as I fought down my panic the rational, slightly angry side, emerged, “Eljee, you didn’t endure a 9 hour plane ride from hell just to give up now!

And with that, I entered the room.

It was empty, apart from the other presenters, and to my delight, stayed empty for the next 5 minutes. I think the other presenters sensed my nervousness and were kind enough to let me chatter on about…the weather *retrospectively places head in hands*. As the room began to fill up I could feel my body tense up, again. Then one of the main speakers of the conference entered the room and I was thrown into dismay. There ended up being around 35 people in the room and I my mind was hoping against hope that the electricity would cut so that I wouldn’t have to present. But instead the session went underway and I tried to relax during the first two presentations.  Then it was my turn. I smiled, took a deep breath, and started.

Ok. Good, I got through the beginning. Keep going. Look up. Keep going. Smile, oh go back to where you left off. Quick. How much time do I got? Oh, they’re nodding. Good. Good. Keep going. Almost there. And…end!

My immediate reaction was one of relief.  I did it!  I could physically feel my muscles relax one by one as I sat through the last presentation.

And then…Q & A! In my session all the presenters gave their papers in one go and Q & A was left at the end. I quite liked this format because being on the receiving end of the questions it was nice not to be put on the spot immediately after my presentation. The chair, in this format, fielded the questions for the participants and monitored the time carefully so that we could get through as many questions as possible in the 12 minutes remaining out of the 80.  Most of the questions were directed at 2 of the other speakers and I was more than glad to sit back and listen to how they answered and addressed the questions – which often consisted of trying to figure out what the question was in the first place!

I got 2 questions, the first was more a comment which came from the main speaker (!!!) who complimented me on bringing up the issue of recognising other types of Englishes. The only question I received, however, was a doozy, “When you use the term “standard English” do you mean “White English?”… …Hmm, good question. And how does one go about answering this. The thoughts that flashed in my mind were:

  • Does their understanding of White English have to do with the Ebonics debate?
  • Whiteness as a linguistic label for race?
  • This question is really hard!
  • What exactly do they mean by “White”?
  • I need beer.

I then ignored all these thoughts and went on to describe how “standard English” is generally understood in the TESOL industry and how “White English” is a particular view that I would need to look more into – an honest answer. I figured why try to blag it?

I left that session feeling relief tinged with some disappointment. I felt not only did I rush through my presentation but there was so much more that I wanted to say! More I wanted to add! More that I could have/should have/would have done. I was originally given 20 minutes, which was cut down to 8 as there were 6 presenters planned in the 80-minute session. On the day only 4 (including me) presented, which amounted to 15 each (plus Q &A). Now planning a presentation with that many variables takes some flexibility and on-the-spot innovation – none of which I quite possess at this point in time. I could have elaborated on some of my presentation, which amounted to 12 minutes on the day, but I stuck with “the plan” that I had. Doing this made me feel much more confident about my presentation and, to be honest, I like having the security of planning out a presentation to a tee. Some people like to wing it but I, for one, don’t have that kind of confidence to take the risk at an international conference – yet.

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