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From Presenter to Convenor: Sophie joins the Earth(ly) Matters team

We are thrilled to have a blogpost written by our fellow SHU PhD student, Sophie Parkes-Nield, where she reflects on her journey from presenting at Earth(ly) Matters 2020 to joining the committee and contributing to organising this year’s conference.

Very few people will claim to have a genuine love of public speaking. As I took my first tentative steps into my PhD, the thought of presenting my burgeoning research to a room full of strangers was enough to keep me awake at night: what if I froze and couldn’t articulate myself? What if the technology malfunctioned? What would I do if I was asked a question I couldn’t answer? I decided that if I didn’t present my research right away, this fear would only grow and morph as my research did. Then, of course, the pandemic struck.

Fortunately, one 2020 conference I had earmarked for a trial of a new paper decided to go online and, in sweltering August heat, intensified by closed windows to keep out the noise of the outside world, I presented at Earth(ly) Matters, the conference of my university’s Postgraduate Research Society. You can read more about my experience of the conference here.

It was the encouraging nature of the conference, the welcoming, inclusive environment so carefully curated by the committee, that encouraged me to get involved in the planning of the subsequent conference in 2021. It would stand me in good stead, I thought, if I could see how it was done—not only the logistics of planning an online event so well considered, but how to foster such a supportive, nurturing atmosphere.

So far, learning from the conference committee has been extremely valuable, though I have been surprised at how much I have been able to assist with its development, despite being relatively new to the world of academic conferences. As conference day rolls around, those nerves will likely return – but the support of the team will make it a much less frightening prospect. Bring on August 2021!

Sophie Parkes-Nield

Sophie is a writer, PhD candidate, and Associate Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, researching English calendar customs at the Centre for Contemporary Legend at SHU. Read more about Sophie here, or read about all of our committee members on our About us-page.

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