Student Journeys

Organising Conferences: New Ways to Approach Public Speaking

It was such an amazing experience attending and helping to organise the “Towards an Anti-Racist University” conference on 12 May and DEN’s conference on 13 May. In this short blog, I will give a short overview of my experience on those two days. 

Firstly, on 12 May, it was mind-blowing to listen to people who had put so much of their heart, time and energy into their work. The experience was super inspiring, as it showed me new lengths I can go to if I aspire to create a genuinely meaningful career.

From the ‘helping to organise’ side of things, I really appreciate that I was given such a wonderful opportunity to learn about organising conferences. I was lucky enough to have assisted the head organiser with numerous tasks and delegated some of them to other student-helpers. It was a proper learning curve for me to be honest, as I took on a bit too many responsibilities in the beginning. However, at some point, I realised that I can enlist the help of my colleagues and managed to hand over some of the tasks that had fallen on me. Eventually, I think we managed to get everything done successfully.

On the 13 May, however, the vibe was a little different. There was a higher concentration of familiar faces in the room and presenters made up almost the entirety of the audience. This created a safe and cosy atmosphere. I enjoyed the presentations from everyone, my colleagues from Westminster, the Islington business school, Vietnam and Peru. Everyone was talking about topics they had a lot of knowledge and passion about, which made the experience very enjoyable. 

There were also two challenging aspects to the 13 May conference experience. The first of them was technical difficulties, which tend to happen way too often anywhere we go. Secondly, people had got very tired by the time of my presentation, which took place just before the last tea break. To be honest, I started preparing for the latter challenge already when I first saw the agenda. Therefore, I took “tired audience” as a part of my game plan. I started my presentation by letting the audience imagine a scenario where I would ask them to stay in their seats and listen to me talking about something they really do not want to hear about for another hour, two hours… for a WEEK, with no tea breaks. I presented this scary scenario because it illustrated how an anorexia nervosa patient might feel while receiving anorexia nervosa hospital treatment, which was my presentation topic. To the best of my knowledge, the tactic was somewhat successful at keeping people engaged. What I also noticed was that people instantly started paying more attention when I showed a picture of myself having anorexia nervosa 10 years ago. This definitely encouraged me to integrate some personal aspects in talks I am going to give in the future.

Anyway, I am super grateful to DEN for creating this amazing opportunity to learn from so many talented people. Also, I really appreciate the chance to learn about organising conferences and testing out new ways to approach public speaking.

Grete Kurik, BSc (Hons) Human Nutrition

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