ISPP Annual Meeting- My Experience
I have been presenting research papers at the International Society of Political Psychology conventions for several years, beginning in Barcelona, Spain in 2006. I was fortunate in Barcelona to be welcomed by some old-timers, including Art Kendall, a retired statistician who worked for the U.S. government for several years. Art loves to give advice and was very kind, coaching me on how to present a paper. Its something I still hold dear. He told me, “Keep it simple. Don't try to tell everything you know about your topic. Just make it interesting and clear enough that they'll want to download and read the paper." He also encouraged me to always eat lunch with another convention member, to know about the different research and to exchange ideas.
One of the sessions that I particularly valued at this year’s convention in San Diego was one with editors of the journal, Political Psychology. I have several research reports that I would like to publish in journals, so I valued their tips about preparing manuscripts for submission. They encouraged us to study and publish on the plethora of current serious political problems in the nation and world, including global warming, special interest group money, war and population growth, for example. They suggested sending with our manuscript the names of three reviewers whose judgment we respect. (We can have these reviewers review our papers while we’re writing them too, making revisions to follow their suggestions.)
Other suggestions that I found relevant and would like to share with everyone included these:
- When writing manuscripts, begin with a good title, one that clearly states what the paper is about. Keep in mind that the audience will be international.
- Make the paper relevant to both political science and to psychology, if possible.
- Follow author guidelines as delineated in the journal instructions.
- Check spelling, grammar, etc.
- If your manuscript is initially rejected, don’t give up. Revise, improve and resubmit it.
- Finally, offer to review manuscripts for the journal yourself, as this can hone your skills in creating good manuscripts, and the journal needs reviewers.
Another pleasant surprise at the convention was running into a professor from the University of Oregon, in my hometown, Eugene. I didn't know he was venturing into the political arena, but he introduced me also to another University of Oregon professor from the business school. They were both presenting research papers, which I made a point to attend. I have just started a term as a member of the Board of Directors of the Oregon Psychological Association. One of the topics that came up at our first meeting recently was the opportunity for any of us to start subdivisions of the state Association. I might talk to these two professors about starting a subdivision of political psychology. I point out these examples to showcase the benefits of networking and how they help in one’s career.
I noticed that many ISPP speakers don't practice what I consider to be basic principles of public speaking. Public speaking is different from informal conversation. When speaking publicly, it's important to speak slower, more firmly and clearly and to pause between statements so your audience has time to digest what you are saying. This is especially important if members of your audience are elderly and don't hear well or for whom English is a second language. Some speakers use Power Points that have paragraphs of tiny print that can't be read from a distance.
I also print out my Power Points as a handout for my audience. This enables folks to make briefer notes. I limit my PowerPoint slides to about 12 or 15 and practice my talk several times at home, using the slides as my outline. If you present at ISPP, you could keep these points in mind.
I keep business cards handy to exchange with folks that I meet and chat with so I can stay in touch. I bring a spiral-bound notebook of lined paper on which I make notes of the presentations. I also note in the program the ones I attend, to have this data for continuing education documentation. As a licensed psychologist, in Oregon I must accumulate 25 hours of continuing education every year. At the ISPP convention in San Diego I accumulated 22 1/2 hours, almost all that I need for the year.
These notes also help me remember the most important scientific information. I keep a tab of the papers I want to get and read in their entirety. The program also has names of the presenters. It doesn't have their e-mail addresses, however, which I would like to see added. I would like the ISPP website to have a section with all the papers loaded on it, which would help the attendees significantly.
I bring a cloth pouch with a shoulder strap to carry notebook, pens, program, etc, as a strap enables me to keep hands free for coffee cup, shaking hands, writing notes, etc.
I especially enjoyed a talk by journalist Chris Mooney. He gave us several tips about presenting to journalists summaries of our journal articles and research findings that are easier for journalists and the public to understand. For example, he wants percentages of people who behave a certain way, rather than correlation coefficients. Journalists also appreciate simple, powerful graphic summaries of findings. Mooney also specified that one should find out exactly when the journalist is free to publish the information you give him/her. He encouraged us to be prompt in responding to a journalist’s request for information.
This presentation by Chris got me thinking on a related issue. Our profession’s journal articles are written in a style that journalists and the general public won’t easily understand. If we expect our research to have an impact on society, I wonder how we can bridge the gap between professional writing and the wider, public audience. For example, I’ve recently published a book for the general public based on my research. It explains how to create a new type of political party to promote common good democracy (Party Time! at Amazon books). I’ve given copies to two local Oregon politicians and intend to get their feedback on the same. I also hope to interact with students as they might be more open to new ideas.
Which brings to mind something I missed at the convention. Book sales. I have attended the Midwest Political Science Association convention in Chicago. They include many book publishers, presenting dozens of volumes for consideration. The International Studies Association (ISA) also has a book sales section and I wish for ISPP to include the same in its annual conference.
In summary, there are many interesting facets to attending ISPP conventions… presenting papers, hobnobbing and listening to research presentations. If you haven’t been to one, try it. You’ll like it.