First conference paper - impostor alert!


Hi everyone,

I'm presenting my first ever conference paper (2nd year of my PhD) at a postgrad conference in a couple of weeks and have suddenly developed a serious case of impostor syndrome - am convinced my research is really basic and obvious, my grasp of theory is weak, and people in the audience are going to sit there pointing out really obvious gaps in my knowledge. Sigh...

The rational part of my brain tells me this probably isn't the case - my abstract was accepted, my supervisor went over it with me, the paper is based on a draft chapter of my thesis which both of my supervisors have given me feedback on before, and liked, and I've practised the paper with a friend doing a PhD in a related field. I think it's just that this conference is quite theory-focused (literary theory, basically) and I don't feel I've got a very thorough grasp on it (which is why I submitted an abstract, hoping it would prod me on my way to thinking through the theoretical side to my work).

Anyway, I guess I'm just looking to hear your experiences with this, and maybe for a bit of reassurance that all the people in the audience probably aren't going to think it's that rubbish and probably even if they do they won't say so? I feel quite confident about the actual presenting and networking and everything, it's just the whole "what if it turns out everything I'm saying is really stupid" feeling that's stressing me out!



Ah yes, - imposter syndrome! I really struggled with it in my first few months of candidature. I felt that I'd somehow tricked the university into letting me do a PHD. I eventually managed to dredge up some self-worth, but the imposter syndrome resurfaces whenever I present a paper. I remember the first time I presented I was up on the podium rambling away about this and that when I noticed with a shock that quite a few people were taking notes - I thought, 'You can't take notes on this! It's rubbish!'.... but the subsequent questions and comments were all helpful and positive.

Best of luck with your conference!


Its funny that I have felt the imposter syndrome for the last five years of being a PhD student! I always wonder if I will actually be able to do this, ie am I academically capable and is my project up to the standard? As previously posted I always assume that my sups would let me know if I couldn't acheive. As for presenting I also have had people take notes, comment about how good my presentation was and yet I was quaking in my heels on stage. I have never got over the nerves of presenting, yet I have (so far) always been well reviewed. I guess some nervousness is good for the performance and gives a little intellectual 'edge'.

I think it is good to be aware of your research, your knowledge and any limitations in it. People will generally ask questions out of genuine interest rather than making anyone look stupid, a chairperson should be on hand to deal with those idiots! If you are unsure of the answers take a moment to have a quick think and if you cannot answer the question then say so.

I am sure you will be fine, just relax as much as possible and enjoy the experience!


Surprisingly enough, whether it resonates with you or not, the conference folks reviewed and accepted your proposal because they felt it had merit.  :) So don't worry about it, some times those things that you take for granted and common knowledge are innovative and novel to others!  Those folks that read the description and choose to spend time with you that session have made a choice, voted with their feet, to hear what you have to say and take what you have to offer... It will be fine!


Hopefully this will put a smile on your face:


Ahaha Killahtron - thanks, amazing video! Am going to listen to it over and over so I have it in my head if I start getting the imposter feeling and it'll maybe remind me not to take it all so seriously :)

And thanks everyone for your replies - really appreciate it. You're right, everyone gets nervous and it'll probably be just fine, and someone would have said something by now if it was really a problem...I will be seriously amazed if anyone takes notes while I'm talking, hadn't even considered that - I bet that would be a good feeling. Thanks everyone - this was my first post here, and I'm so impressed how supportive this place is!