Italian espresso and posters

Next Thursday I’m leaving for a conference in Naples, Italy. Well, actually I’m visiting Rome first. Rome. A first. I feel like an idiot for never having been to Rome before. Before October last year I had never even been to Italy, even.

I’ve seen some of the tourist stuff… Pisa – October 2017

Now, this summer, Italy will be the host country for the European Congress of Entomology (or something along those lines). And as mentioned before, it will be held in Naples. So I will be back for nine days.

When I hear Naples, I think of pizza and red and white checkered table cloths. I hope there’s Italian espresso too.

This cookie thing was perfect. Hope they have them in the South as well, but then with the checkered table cloths.

Anyway. I have already been preparing a little bit for this conference, as I’ll be giving an oral presentation and also got a message that I have to present a poster presentation. I am not sure if this is normal, but hey, more attention for my work is always welcome. I’d rather find out that I cannot present my poster and complain about it, then show up without a poster, because “I already have an oral presentation slot”.

I think scientific posters are the most boring thing in the world, though. For some reason there are always 200 ugly ones (I’m not saying mine is pretty) and then one or two that really stand out because of their simplicity. On a conference last year I saw a poster that was entirely made in R Studio format. I appreciated that nerdiness and originality, but somehow the poster judges are always looking for something else. A big picture of a fluffy thing. No text. Few graphs.

Fuck! I cannot present my work with fluffy things, or without a bit of text and at least some graphs. Well I probably could explain it well enough, but why would I make a poster, then? There isn’t really something that easily summarizes my work on the little things that crawl around in ecosystems AND is eye-catching. When was the last time you thought “Hey, that’s an interesting looking soil microbiome”, “Those iridoid glycosides look fantastic in that light”, or “That cute L1 caterpillar seems to rather feed on the grass species than on the forbs in this plant community”? Exactly, it also only rarely happens to me, and I’m the one that studies these things, because I like them…

So yeah, I indeed minimized the text as much as possible and I tried to add some graphical abstract/ hypotheses. I hope it is enough.

And this is not even the worst part of poster presentations. The worst part is the general awkwardness that surrounds poster presentation sessions. Especially the first half an hour (I guess the people always need two glasses of wine first) is strange. People walk around with blank stares… No questions. Is my poster that clear (it isn’t!). Then again, I am also not really that interested in talking to presenters of most other posters… I am not really the type to claim every single person as soon as they walk by and read the title. Some (or even many poster-people) do this. Do others find this behaviour cool (I very much dislike it, to be honest)? I am more of a laidback poster presenter. I’m present, for sure, but I only present to people that seem truly interested. I tell myself that by investing time in poster-preying on every single person (even those that are not interested) I might miss out on the interested (and thus more interesting) people that might pass if you’re constantly busy explaining every little detail to everyone.

Luckily the poster sessions usually last no more than 1,5 hour…

I never thought I would become a fan of oral presentations, but it is happening. It only has positives. At least only interested people show up, people can actually hear you, you have a bit more space to present a few more graphs and/or graphics and as you’re often squished into a certain theme session, this also gives you a better opportunity to frame your work in a certain theme. And the best of all: fifteen minutes and you’re done!

And better yet; after my presentation I have three more days to explore Naples, Pompeï and Mt Vesuvius! I am really looking forward to that.

Podarcis sp. (probably P. sicula), another reason to love Italy. Reptile nerds like me can have good fun up there.





Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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