Paper: HBU Theology Conference – “Paul and Judaism”

Thought I would join Brian Leport and announce that my paper was accepted for the upcoming HBU Theology Conference. My paper’s title is “Before I was Born’ – Paul’s Calling and the Question of Time in Galatians”.

I find the question of time interesting in general and have written several posts on Paul and time (Ann Jervis and T.F. Torrance). This paper examines the metaphorical nature of time in Paul’s autobiographical narrative in Galatians 1:11-17 and seeks to demonstrate how Paul’s calling provides a conceptual structure for his use of time in Galatians 3-4.

It should be a fun conference, I hope to see you there.


How To: Your First Biblical Studies Conference Paper

Last March I presented a paper at a Society of Biblical Literature/American Academy of Religion (SBL/AAR) conference for the first time.  It was a great experience that was made possible by the advice and help of my professors and friends.  Since proposals for the Southwest Regional SBL/AAR conference are due next Monday, I thought I would share some advice to anyone proposing/presenting a paper for the first time.

An action shot of my first SBL/AAR presentation
An action shot of my first SBL/AAR presentation

[1] Submit A Proposal!

Until last year, I wasn’t even aware that someone without a graduate degree could present at these conferences.  If you are thinking about submitting a paper, let me encourage you to muster up the courage to do it!  I had written a paper for a graduate class on Paul (“A [Just] War for Romans 13:1-7“) and my professor (the honorable Ben Blackwell) encouraged me to revise it and submit it.  For your first time, I’d encourage you to work with a paper you have previously written.

The submission instructions can be found on the conference website and are fairly straightforward.  AAR only requires you to submit a title & an abstract, but if you are submitting to SBL (and do not have a PhD) you are required to also include a full draft of the paper & the name/address of a professor who is familiar with your work (another good reason to submit a paper you’ve already written).

[2] Revise your paper considering two factors: timing and oral performance.  (And Practice!)

It’s important to remember that a conference paper is meant to be heard, not read.  When you are revising your paper (remember, the best papers are re-written papers), make sure that it is timed appropriately.  Since everyone reads at a different pace, practice to determine your average speed (words per minute) while making sure that you are not speed-reading.

[3] Get copious amounts of feedback. (And Practice!)

Make sure that you get plenty of feedback on your paper and that you have thoroughly practiced reading it.  I had the opportunity to present my paper at a School of Christian Thought Colloquium the week before the conference and so was able to get valuable feedback from the amazing faculty at HBU.

[4] Prepare a simple and informative handout.

Your audience will appreciate your handout.  I would suggest that you provide your email address on it (in fact, I even received a couple emails after my presentation).

[5] Enjoy yourself!  

After you have prepared and practiced, get some rest and enjoy the conference.  If you’re interested in presenting a paper, I’m assuming that at some level you find this sort of experience “fun.”  Enjoy the opportunity to research, write, and share your ideas with colleagues.

I know that other bloggers have shared some good advice about presenting at conferences.  
If you know of any particularly good posts, will you share them in the comments?

Meeting Your ‘Hero’ at a Conference (SBLAAR is next month)

Hard to believe but SBLAAR 2013 is just around the corner, and now is the time to start making plans for the conference. To help get us started, this is a repost of my guidelines for meeting with experienced scholars.

For graduate students or those new to a field, one of the most anticipated parts of going to conferences is meeting with other scholars in your field. Knowing that all those people – whose books you have read, lectures you have listened to, and ideas you have benefitted from – will be there is exciting. But, this can also be very nerve wracking  because we often don’t know how to go about meeting them!

This post outlines how I meet with scholars at a conference. This is from my own experience (read failure) and I would love feedback from others.

Three Types of Meetings

It is important to determine what kind of meeting you expect with the person. Failure to do so can lead to some awkward moments.

1. Meet Them – This is the easiest encounter to pull off, and the easiest to ruin. Your real desire is to meet the person, with no real need to talk to them other than to say “Hi.” Be honest, the ultimate goal is to tweet your friends that you just met “So and So!” If this is the goal, and it is OK to admit it, do not contact them about meeting while at the conference just make it happen during the conference. Here are a few ways:

1. Check the conference schedule and find a session where they are involved. If interested, attend the session and before/after walk up and introduce yourself.

2. Find them at one of the main gatherings and introduce yourself.

3. Please be careful here, this starts to border on stalking! You see them at the conference center, hotel, dinner or wherever and want to approach them. So, you follow them discretely waiting for your chance to pounce. If you choose this route, a few suggestions: remember if you are doing it so are others; in this setting they just like you are busy doing something else, even if it is just leaving; and get in and get out.

“Meeting them” is quite easy at a conference like SBLAAR. Just understand the goal – you just want to say you met them and there is no expectation of conversation or of them remembering you.

2. Introduce Yourself – This level is also quite easy, but does require some planning. These people you want to talk with about your work, but only at a very basic level. For example, I am interested in the same topics or I have really benefitted from the broad scope of your work. In this encounter, your hope is not to have an in depth discussion but to open the door for further contact. Thus, you will need to do the following:

1. Contact them before the conference to set up a meeting time. This type of meeting will not take more than 30 minutes (15 minutes is probably the best).

2. Your initial contact should state you would why you want to meet (Example from an email I sent last year, “I would enjoy having the opportunity to talk about common objections to the use of cognitive linguistics in biblical studies.”), and offer a few times that you can meet (this will show them how long you plan on meeting). Keep it short and to the point.

3. Before the meeting, prepare a few things: first, a one-or-two sentence explanation of you interests/research; a couple of questions that will allow them to opportunity to talk; if you don’t have a business card, something that you can hand them with your contact information; and finally ask about contacting them in the future for more conversation.

4. After the conference (with SBLAAR being week of Thanksgiving wait until the next week), send a follow-up email saying thanks for the time and give your contact information one more time. Also, mention that you look forward to talking again.

“Getting introduced” is fairly easy at most conferences, but remember the point – to open up avenue for further discussion. Do not take much of their time, or try to accomplish more than getting acquainted. This has been one of my common mistakes, moving “in for the kill” to quickly. Take the long view and use these times to foster ongoing relationships.

3. Deep Discussion – The third level of meeting is the hardest…it takes time, a place conducive to discussion, and the most preparation. You should only try to have a couple of these during any one conference and it should probably be with those you are already acquainted.

1. Like above, contact the person and be specific about intentions.

2. Once meeting is set, follow-up (most likely through email) with more information about meeting. Briefly explain your common interests and perhaps provide a few specific questions you have for them.

3. At them meeting, be ready to remind them of material in previous contact and have an agenda prepared (can be as easy as list of prepared questions). It is OK to spend a few minutes catching up/getting to know but remember this is a meeting about something specific. You must be focused on getting your questions answered in the amount of time you have with them. Also, remember the meeting is about getting their ideas not talking through your own. After all, your ideas will still be there when you get home! Also, it is your job to make sure to end the discussion on time. No matter how good the discussion is going, when the scheduled time is up offer the opportunity to leave. If they choose to stay all bets are off, but you do not want to be in the situation of getting shut down. It leaves a bad taste and makes it harder to contact them in the future.

4. After the conference, follow-up with a thank you email or phone call.

This level of contact is difficult because conferences are already a busy time. If you desire to meet with someone in this manner, contact them well in advance of the conference, secure a place that is conducive to such a meeting, and offer, if able, to pay for coffee or meal.

Well, that is my advice. What has worked for you?

As for this year, I am planning 0 ‘hello’ encounters, 7 ‘get to know’ encounters (mostly with other bloggers I only know from a profile picture), and 2 discussion encounters (both with people I know but only regularly see at SBLAAR). What are your plans?

And if you are going to SBLAAR leave a comment or send me a tweet @ChambersChad, be a pleasure to meet you.