I'm getting the Inspiration Award post ready (thank you, profacero!), but in the meantime, here is a pop quiz about putting together conference panels. You may think these are no-brainers, but I've heard arguments put forth for all the options over the years. (My answer to #3 is below.)
1. You are putting together a panel for Big Conference, which encourages you to have an "expert in the field" (i.e., a famous person) on the panel or as a respondent. A friend of yours, very junior, has submitted a brilliant proposal. Which one do you include?
a. Famous person. Academe is cutthroat, and having Big Conference on my vita is important.
b. Friend. I am not THAT soulless yet.
c. Get them both, if I can.
2. You're in charge of a panel that you know will run because you're the Division Head or Discussion Group Head or whatever. You have a number of really good proposals from graduate students and several that could be good from Dr. Famous and the Oldbloods, who have been writing about these issues for years. What do you do?
a. All grad students. Dr. Famous has had his say; let's hear from some new blood.
b. Grad students and Dr. Famous or one of the Oldbloods. Dr. Famous is a draw, so having him on the panel brings exposure to the grad students.
c. Dr. Famous and the Oldbloods. They're famous for a reason.
3. You want a panel that will go well and people who won't go over their allotted time so that you have to suffer through a terrible presentation or use the hook. Whom do you choose?
a. Graduate students.
b. Mid-level scholars who've been doing this for a while.
c. Dr. Eminent
4. Panelist A wants to use A/V media in her presentation. Where do you put her on the panel?
a. At the beginning to draw people in.
b. In the middle, so that it wakes people up.
c. At the end, because fiddling with the tech stuff and using PowerPoint or media always, always takes longer than expected. Besides, this gives people something to look forward to.
d. I can't believe you're shallow enough to think about this. Put the presentation wherever it fits thematically and don't worry about it.
5. What is the best method of giving the hook to a panelist who is well over his or her allotted time?
a. a card or note saying that time is up
b. tapping on your watch
c. an air horn
Answer to #3: Trick question! All levels can give great papers, and all can give poor ones. Think about how often you've seen these:
--the grad student who brings in an unedited diss chapter and flips through it while muttering "I'll skip this part, but here's what I say in it"
--the mid-level person who has a paper of the appropriate length but feels compelled to gloss every sentence with commentary
--Dr. Eminent's intense love affair with his own voice and confidence in his mad skilz at extemporizing, which results in a scenario in which you get, say, 25 minutes of background on something that everyone already knows. No kidding: I once heard a presentation for which the closest analogy would be telling a group of American historians who Abraham Lincoln was.
What are your answers? There's extra credit on the line here.