Exposing myself and my research at conferences – or: I have no dog, but a PhD topic to take care of


Going to conferences is always exciting (like going to the VHB conference 2015 and participating in the Ownership Symposium). It is particularly exciting, if you are about to present something that is of great importance to you – something like YOUR dissertation project. A project you already spent a lot of thought and effort on (personal investment), you (think you) know the topic very well (intimate knowledge), and to a certain extent you feel like influencing this area of research through your (anticipated) contribution (perceived control). These very well-known experiences (Pierce, Kostova, & Dirks, 2003) of course make your dissertation project something special to you, make you feel like you own this very niche of research interests – it became a reflection of yourself, part of who you are (Belk, 1988). This is what makes presentations so exciting, because it feels like offering something private and very personal to others.

However, who really enjoys sharing his/her very personal and intimate details with a rather unknown audience? It might feel like this nightmare, where you are standing on a stage and suddenly notice that you are naked, finally comes true. The very moment when you present YOUR topic, your own flesh and blood, to a greater audience, you open up yourself for (constructive) critique and, suddenly, you start to totter about your feelings of ownership. Did I really spend enough thought and effort on it? Do I really know the topic well, or do the others know it better? Is my expected contribution really as impactful as I thought it might be? In essence, when you present your topic, you let others tackle your knowledge about, your investment in, and your influence on your research area. It might be like your feelings of ownership for your research and topic are questioned.

But why at all do I voluntarily face or even seek these confrontation(s)? I suspect that I have been tricked by ownership, as my answer to this question is – because it is MINE (my dissertation topic). It is mine and I want to take care of it, I am proud of it, I feel responsible for it and no matter what, I will try to do the best for it. Even if this means that I have to undergo potential embarrassing and uncomfortable situations. I will go and take the extra step, neglect related costs and focus on the benefits. At the end we, my project and me, will mutually prosper from being exposed to “our community” (the scientific community) and flourish from the feedback we will get. Somewhat this makes me feel a little like a new dog owner, but instead of a dog, I have a PhD topic to take care of and instead of the veterinarian, I visit conferences.

Editor’s note: