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Adelaide9216

Feeling quite insecure tonight.

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I gave a talk today. It was part of a panel. I received zero questions from the crowd. All the questions were geared towards my co-panelists. I feel like nobody related to what I was saying (200 people approx + 1 hour question period...) I give a lot of talks, this happens rarely, but when it happens, it makes me question my relevance as a speaker. I don't know why they've invited me in the first place. 

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7 hours ago, Adelaide9216 said:

I gave a talk today. It was part of a panel. I received zero questions from the crowd. All the questions were geared towards my co-panelists. I feel like nobody related to what I was saying (200 people approx + 1 hour question period...) I give a lot of talks, this happens rarely, but when it happens, it makes me question my relevance as a speaker. I don't know why they've invited me in the first place. 

If it happens rarely as you mentioned, then maybe the more important factor to take into consideration is your audience. Questions are asked by the audience only when they can relate sufficiently with what you are trying to say. Maybe this time you and your audience were not on the same page. 

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This has happened to me before, but on a more intimate scale. I guess what I tried to keep in mind when it happened is that while I know a good deal of people who would have held high interest and asked me more, but somewhere between the audience, my spot in the lineup, and the success of the other presenters just happened to outweigh what I could bring to the table. "I am enough, I have enough, I do enough".

 

My father was once on a panel discussing drugs and alcohol to the parents of an incoming high school class. The members were a lawyer, a former alcoholic/drug addict, and him (a psychologist working largely with middle and high school aged students). When it came time for questions, every single person was questioning the lawyer on "But what if a kid gets drunk and injured on MY property if I wasn't home and he started drinking at another house and he had his parents permission on a tuesday when mercury is in retrograde???". Not a single person asked him a question, and it became extremely apparent that almost no one in the crowd understood the point of the presentation. Even in a group of 250+ people, there can be a single fixation I guess.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/6/2019 at 2:17 AM, LizKay said:

What was your topic?

It was not an academic conference per say. It was me sharing my personal experience and journey in academia in relation to my mental health. Two other panelists also had to share their experiences in grad school in relation to their mental health. My co-panelists were upper-year students. My perspective was pretty positive and optimistic. My co-panelists did not have a great experience so far with academia. A lot of the question period was students crying and saying how hard they find their doctoral studies. It was very emotional. None of the questions were addressed to me specifically. I felt out of place wondering if I made students feel worse (or disconnected with my message) because my experience is positive so far, despite the challenges I have faced so far.

 

Edited by Adelaide9216

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Two things come to mind: if many people in the audience were having a more negative experience with academia and they shared that with your co-panelists then they might have more easily bonded with them than you. So there there's nothing you did wrong it's just you had an uphill battle to begin with.

Second and more crucially: I don't know if you had a chair but if none of the questions were addressed to you directly I assume not all were addressed to your co-panelists directly either. Regardless of that it feels to me the chair (if they existed) did a bad job moderating. We usually forget that it's not just us on the stage (and the audience) that control the question session. It's largely the job of the chair. If there was no chair then you had an even steeper uphill battle. So once again it's not a reflection of you or your abilities.

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On 3/5/2019 at 7:17 PM, Adelaide9216 said:

I gave a talk today. It was part of a panel. I received zero questions from the crowd. All the questions were geared towards my co-panelists. I feel like nobody related to what I was saying (200 people approx + 1 hour question period...) I give a lot of talks, this happens rarely, but when it happens, it makes me question my relevance as a speaker. I don't know why they've invited me in the first place. 

As said by a famous stand up comedian: You don't learn anything from good gigs; you learn everything from bad gigs.

They all have them.  Spend time re-evaluating what you did wrong and consider reading books on improv.  Why?  These guys work in a field where their job is to get a reaction out of people and have to be light on their feet to read a room and adjust their materials to silent crowds that aren't reacting.  They know the most about how to navigate crowds and their reactions.

Just a different metric to get information from.

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It's possible that the people who were drawn to this panel were people who were in the process of dealing with the kinds of issues the other panelists were talking about still struggling with. As a person who deals with mental health issues too, I feel like our society sends us messages that those who seem positive and optimistic have "successfully" dealt with their problems, which always feels like a moral judgment to me. The audience might have been low-key intimidated by someone who (In their minds) has "pulled themselves up by their boot straps" while they're still struggling to cope.

I'm not saying that you in any way projected any of that. I just think that those of us with mental illness are made to feel like we're doing something wrong if we take too long to "succeed" in coping (as if coping is a finite process. LMFAO)

I'm just conjecturing based on my own years of self-judgment, so take my ideas with a grain of salt. ;) 

I'm sure you did a great job, and you don't know that you didn't impact people in the audience who didn't say anything. Keep reaching out. 

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On 3/5/2019 at 10:17 PM, Adelaide9216 said:

I gave a talk today. It was part of a panel. I received zero questions from the crowd. All the questions were geared towards my co-panelists. I feel like nobody related to what I was saying (200 people approx + 1 hour question period...) I give a lot of talks, this happens rarely, but when it happens, it makes me question my relevance as a speaker. I don't know why they've invited me in the first place. 

Really proud of you for being able to get up on a pannel in front of around two hundred people and expose yourself on such a vulnerable topic! ❤️ Sometimes, people can be so moved or hear something that resonates with them so well, that there is no more need for further discussion. That could be a possibility. Even if that isn't the case, even if for some reason this group did not relate to you, remember that your experiences, thoughts, and feelings are still valid, and you are never alone in your experiences and beliefs. 

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