[academic filter] know nothing, must give comment on it, on the fly. how to be OK with this?
October 18, 2012 4:40 PM Subscribe
I suffer from extreme performance anxiety but have been yanked in at the last minute to talk on something I know almost nothing about. Not performing is not an option. Need help.
posted by starcrust to Work & Money (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a postdoc in the social sciences/humanities. I've been asked at the eleventh hour to give a comment on a conference panel which is very roughly in my field of research but not enough that I'm all that comfortable with it. (The original commentator dropped out, and she is a senior and fantastic scholar who works directly on the field). The papers are not being circulated beforehand. I am freaking. out. I can't refuse to do this and anyway have already said yes. The conference is tomorrow. It will be full of very important people and professors.
to make it worse, I already constantly battle the sense that I got into my job by mistake and I shouldn't be here. I can cope when I've had time to prepare and bone up on every conceivable thing that might come up and I still almost suffocate with panic to the very last second. Giving a smart and informed comment on three papers I've never seen and know next to nothing about, in front of a room full of experts on that field is almost the worst possible public speaking scenario in academia I can think of. I've never even given this sort of comment before and I'm pretty certain there's just no way I will be able to do a good job, let alone as good a job as the fantastic woman whose shoes I will have to fill.
How can I survive this? I would be grateful for any coping mechanisms but also any advice on how to give comments on a collection of papers. I'm terrified that i'm going to be so anxious and terrified that I'll zone out while the papers are being given and have nothing to go on. Or I'll find I have NOTHING AT ALL intelligent to say or add. I feel like the best comments I've seen in these situations are those which make elegant thematic links between the papers or point to gaps not addressed, or situate the papers within broader scholarly debates. All things I feel incapable of doing because I don't feel like I have a good enough grasp of the field. I would be so grateful for any help.