Four things that will make me avoid your panel, clamber over an entire row of people to get out of your panel--or wish to God that it were socially acceptable to do the latter:
- Papers on Early Modern topics that involve extended parallels to contemporary political events. A brief aside about, say, the Bush Administration may not be amiss, especially if it's genuinely clever. But the key word is brief. If I wanted to hear your rambling and ill-informed remarks about John Yoo, I would not be attending a session on All's Well That Ends Well.
- Speakers, especially women, whose voices are so wispy they're barely picked up by a microphone. This is only partly about audibility. It's about the entire lack of confidence and enthusiasm that your voice communicates.
- Papers that use twentieth-century writers or thinkers to illuminate those from much earlier eras. Again, a brief anecdote or quotation may be useful and illuminating. But I have NO INTEREST in how you think Norman Mailer will help me to read Thomas Wyatt.
- Speakers whose self-presentation suggests they consider themselves the reincarnation of Mark Van Doren. That vaguely British but clearly spurious accent? your ridiculously brilliantined hair? the Latin tags sprinkled in once per page? Make me want to kill you. (On the other hand: awesome suit and glasses, dude.)
Seriously. It is not my job to care about your paper. It is your job to make me care--or at least to feel that the 20 minutes I spent listening to the sound of your voice were not wholly unpleasant.
My next conference isn't for months. Commit the above lessons to memory, and you may just see me there.