Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: Conference Edition

I recently gave a talk, and afterward someone doing very similar work, "Sue", came up afterward and we started chatting. We had very complimentary research interests, so went to dinner together to keep chatting.

Sue and I are in very different disciplines, but we both attend conferences regularly, so we ended up swapping stories.

Some of these conference attendance stories were funny (e.g., the general chair getting trashed and loudly singing German drinking songs at the banquet), and some were embarrassing (e.g., the young scientist asks the senior scientist, 'What are your thoughts on Embedded Rubber Ducks?' and the senior scientist says, 'Young man, I INVENTED Rubber Ducks!"), but overall they were greatly entertaining. Like campfire story-telling for academics.

Though as any good campfire event goes, we reached the inevitable point in such a conference story-swapping conversation -- horror stories. These are the kind of stories that, at the time, make you want to jump off a cliff, but years later you can (sort of) laugh about with colleagues. Sue told me a few that I wish I could write about here but I was sworn to secrecy.

Anyway, I thought I'd ask the peanut gallery out there - what are your conference stories? Any funny ones? Scary ones? Would love to hear.


  1. I'll share a rather impressive instance of foot-in-mouth syndrome.

    A few years back, I was talking to a Senior Figure, who accidentally rammed my leg with their wheelchair. I was startled and bleeding, but not really hurt. Senior Figure apologized profusely. Trying to laugh it off, I said "eh, my leg is fine, I've got two of 'em".

    Then I remembered...Senior Figure only has one of 'em.

    Fortunately, Senior Figure had the charity to pretend I hadn't said that, and I was able to hobble away to find a hole to crawl into.

  2. Oh no! Yikes. Well, glad they took it well.

    "Foot-in-mouth" - bad pun :)

  3. Surely your research interests were complementary?