Virtual AP Conference: My First Experience
Why present in a conference?
Just before the start of the spring break last year, I got an email from the AP Conference Secretariat offering me a chance to present in Ritsumeikan APU’s 18th annual conference. I remembered reading the email word for word, making sure that I understood the details correctly. I immediately started making checklists in my head: Will I have enough time to prepare for the conference? Check. Will the conference give me a chance to practice my presentation skills? Check. Will the conference improve my CV? Check. Will the conference allow me to network with others? Unsure. Unfortunately, the email stated that this year’s conference was most likely going to be conducted online.
As someone who has never done a conference before, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t have a clear direction on where my research was going, and I became even more doubtful because I wasn’t confident in my Zoom skills. All of this seemed new to me, and I didn’t know what to do. But despite being confused, I remembered what my peers and mentors had always said—when in doubt, ask a sempai (先輩, せんぱい, senior/upperclassman)! I told myself that if at least two of my sempai said joining a conference wouldn’t be as useful as I had imagined then I’d just decline the invitation immediately. After asking around for opinions, my sempai said that joining a conference is a win-win situation for me; (1) there is no pass or fail, (2) I would get tons of feedback from other panelists, and (3) it would better prepare me for my thesis work progress presentation at the end of the month. Fair enough.
However, as my mouse hovered around the register button, I thought of one last excuse that they probably hadn’t thought of—the registration fee! I reasoned with myself that if this conference was expensive, then I would skip it for now and join next year’s conference. To my surprise, I was wrong again. Registration is completely free for APU students!
When I realized I had run out of excuses to withdraw from the conference, I finally made up my mind and registered. The requirement, too, wasn’t difficult. It stated that I must submit a draft of my research title and abstract. After months of preparation and countless hours consulting with my professor, I finally submitted the documents required and received the official acceptance email. Now all I had left to do was wait!
The Virtual Conference
The months leading up passed by so fast, and it was finally November—the month of the conference. Honestly, I had mixed feelings about it; I was excited and afraid at the same time. I was excited because I was finally getting the chance to present the research that I had been working on for the past half a year. On the other hand, so many things could go wrong. Before the conference started, I had already thought of at least three backup plans if my internet started acting up, like borrowing my friend’s mobile hotspot or emailing the staff and asking to be rescheduled as the last speaker.
When the day finally arrived, I entered my panel and I checked my presentation one last time to make sure I had opened the right file and re-read my script. I must admit though, one of the best things about doing a virtual presentation is that you can present while stealing a few glances at your script. Just don’t make it obvious that you’re reading! Soon, my panel was flooded with attendants. I saw that my classmates and mom had entered the room to cheer me on, but I kept my focus. Before we started our presentation, Professor Kim Sangho, the chair of our panel, reminded us that the total time allocated for all four presenters was 90 minutes. That meant that each of us had around 20 minutes for both presentation and questions.
Just as I was checking the list of participants, I heard my name being called, and I froze for a second. Having only slept three hours the night before, I started to doubt whether I had enough energy to finish the whole presentation. Suddenly my heart started pounding, and my hands started sweating. I took a few deep breaths to calm myself and started hesitantly with the introduction. I greeted the professor and my friends and began to explain my research content, followed by a literature review and literature gap. Although I was unsure at first, my confidence grew as my presentation went on. Without realizing, I went section by section until I reached the conclusion. Everything went just as I had planned. What a relief!
Overall, presenting in a virtual conference turned out to be such a great learning experience for me. Although it was unfortunate that we couldn’t network in-person as we had hoped, at the end of the day, my name had been registered as a presenter in the 18th AP Conference. I gave myself a pat on the back for making the good call of listening to my sempai and not backing away from this opportunity. The conference not only gave me a reason to update my LinkedIn profile but marked an important milestone in my academic career that I will always remember.
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