I recently attended a conference held in a location that offered many temptations to skip out on panels. The first day, however, I was good and I went to the panels.

They were freaking awful. Unbelievably bad. Actually, only one was truly terrible—the rest were mediocre to weak. But taken together, I was in a seething rage by the end of the day.

The result? I skipped out on the next day. My good intentions had been punished, not rewarded, and so I said fuck it.

The lesson? Bad papers drag down other papers, reduce the audience for everyone, and make people not want to go to conferences. Maybe you don’t care about your audience, but it’s not just about you, when you are giving a conference paper.

Related notes:

Acephalous wrote a while back, in a post full of things I wish more people understood: “when I write talks, I write talks; I don’t simply read aloud something meant to read alone.”

I suddenly adore Linda Kerber, who explains exactly what it means to write things that are meant to be heard. Example, but there’s much more:

Instead write for your real audience, the people who will be listening. Go through your final draft, looking skeptically for dependent clauses and complex sentences. Turn complex sentences into simple, declarative sentences. Although a sentence linked by semicolons, or a sentence constructed with one or more dependent clauses, may be perfectly clear on paper, it is very hard to understand when it floats out into the air. The listener cannot hang on to the subject until the object heaves into view three clauses later.

Tenured Radical gives more excellent advice on giving conference papers. (hat tip for introducing me to the Linda Kerber piece)