This is the continuation of my story about my time getting and being at the 23rd Conference on Applied Crystallography in Krynica, Poland. Make sure, you read the beginning of my story (as well as the disclaimer in case you get a wrong impression of the scientific value of this conference :)
For immersive reading, I recommend The Days from Avicii and We are the Champions from Queen as background music.
And this is how the story continues:
The alarm clock rang. I opened my eyes and thought this is it! The day I’ve been waiting for, since I got the confirmation of my talk, the day, for which I have prepared myself for almost a week. I listened to my stomach. I felt very hungry but otherwise calm and at peace with the world. I shared a rich breakfast with my waltzing partner from last night. She also had some nice words of encouragement for me.
My talk was supposed to be the right after the plenary lectures, or to be more precise, right after the first coffee break. During the plenary lectures, I found myself thinking “come on, talk faster, I want to start!”. During the coffee break, I tried out the equipment, since my advisor had told me that if I had the chance to practice, I should take it (good advice!). The biggest problem was the hand-held microphone because I have never used one before. I had observed several former speakers turn their head away from the mic for a second while talking and therefore became less audible. I know, that I do this, too, it’s only human after all. In the end, I settled for holding the mic almost at the top, so that I could connect my finger with my chin, hoping that this way the mic would follow wherever my head turns. Brilliant, I thought! Then it was time!
During the short introduction I had a joyful gut feeling. Then I started with a smile on my face. The “brilliant” idea with the microphone turned out to be the worst idea of the day. Usually, I talk in a low and calm voice, because I find it exhausting to talk loudly. However, when I am standing in front of a crowd and have to talk to them, my voice swells up in volume. This is a bad idea, if your mouth is less than a centimeter away from a microphone and the chair of the session immediately told me to speak quieter or move the mic away from my mouth. I considered for a split second, then I remembered something Professor Neder (who was by a strange coincidence also the chairman of this session) once told at a workshop: “I don’t have a voice for small rooms, I am used to talk in front of large audiences without any aid. ” I probably misquoted him here but this line was what I recalled. So, taking a leaf out of “Neder’s Book of Teaching”, I dropped the mic and let my booming voice fill the conference room. It was good enough. I enjoyed myself during the talk, and I hope the audience did enjoy the talk too.
After all was done, I sat down, proud and rather cheerful. I got a few compliments regarding my talk but my favorite one was “You really woke me up with your talk!” A long but very interesting day of lectures was followed by the second and also last poster session. It was fun, talking to people and letting them explain some of their methods in more detail.
Evening approached and the conference schedule simply read “Dinner” for the night, but if they had been more specific beforehand, I would have had packed different clothes. I was simply not prepared for what was waiting for us on this night.