Don't be a Conference Troll: a Guide to Asking Good Questions

  • 2016-03-22
  • The Guardian

Giving a conference paper is daunting. Dealing with questions can be even worse, if you face a deluge of condescending statements, rambling monologues and thinly veiled attempts to show off superior knowledge.

Some people avoid giving papers to escape this horror. One of us remembers the joy she felt at a conference when the fire alarm went off just as she finished presenting, saving her from questions altogether. But we need other researchers’ questions to make our efforts worthwhile – they are the lifeblood of conferences. We want to test our direction, our findings, and our approach.

We give papers to think things through and to learn. Audience members are there for the same reasons. This puts us all on the same team, not opposing sides, even when we hold alternative views. Questions should be about personal and collective development, not scoring points.