Post Academic

Beware of Campus Visit A/V F-Ups

We had originally planned to write a longer piece about the pitfalls of campus visits, even though we’ve never experienced first-hand the hazing ritual of the next round after convention interviews.  Still, we’ve seen and heard enough of ’em to offer some good second-hand anecdotes for those of you preparing for your upcoming endurance test of meet-and-greets, job talks, teaching demos, and all those meals and down time where you could slip and say something impolitic.  (By the way, we’d love to post some first-hand accounts, so please let us know if you wanna share your experiences here at Post Academic.)

But really, the interpersonal tightrope and the logistical nightmares of any campus visit go with the territory, and it’s not like you can or should change your personality at this point in order to anticipate what might happen that you can’t anticipate anyway.  Sure, we could’ve mentioned the time that grad students in my program made a job candidate hyperventilate by bombarding her/him with snarky theory questions.  Or about when a friend of mine had her teaching demo time cut in half with no warning because a classroom was double booked.  These kinds of things happen, though who knows what *exactly* will happen, so you’ve just got to be ready for a lot of variables.

The one thing,though, that invariably happens with humanities campus visit presentations is that the A/V will not work.  While it’s a plus for you to show off how you can use technology, whether it’s a PowerPoint presentation or something more advanced — hey, everyone wants a digital humanist, even if a lot of folks don’t exactly know what that is, just because you’re tech savvy doesn’t mean that your hosts are, no matter how much they want someone like that.  We at the Post Academic help desk have seen too many job talks that get off to a bad start because the A/V hook-up to a laptop doesn’t work or are derailed in the middle when the sound on the DVD player is jacked up.  Don’t be the one who looks crushed when you need to be at your best, just because your best-laid plans have just fallen through.  So keep in mind the following…

Don’t Believe Your Eyes: You might think the pre-game test of all the equipment means you’re good to go, but we’ve been in too many situations where prep doesn’t mean a thing.  Somehow, the A/V gremlins come out in full force when you least want them to, even if everything checks out or you know what you’re doing or your hosts have the tech guy on call.

More advice on how to manage your A/V presentation, below the jump…

Get Ready to Go Old School: Have paper handouts ready to go, whether they’re for your PowerPoint presentation or lesson plan or sample syllabi.  Prepping them will hep you get your act together, and people like having something to hold onto beyond your presentation.  Even if you don’t have to fall back on them, you can still use handouts to complement your talk.  And those of you who dare to do a talk with film clips or video that might not run the way you planned, you might want photocopy some stills or make nice color laminates to pass around, just in case.   It sounds lame and luddite, but we’ve been to too many of these things when the video doesn’t have sound or the DVD isn’t compatible and the candidate just seems shellshocked about it, so you have to make the best of things.

Be Prepared to Call an Audible: If/when things don’t work out, you have to be ready to keep going without missing a beat.  Sometimes, you’ll have more time to fill when the 3-minute clips won’t play, so you might have to extemporize a bit and go off your script.  Sometimes, they’ll try and try to fix the problem, but eat up half your time in the process, so you might have to take things into your own hands and tell them to stop fussing with the A/V or be prepared to make a cold start after a long lull.  Think of it as performing what happens when a student asks a ridiculous comment and you have to go with the flow.

Never Let Them See You Sweat: Sure, the audience will commiserate with you because it knows it’s not your fault when the A/V breaks down, but you won’t be getting any bonus sympathy points either.  And though it’s hard to exactly explain that look in a candidate’s eyes when s/he is so drained and disappointed that s/he has basically thrown in the towel, you’ll know it when you see it.  Show them that you can take things in stride and that you’re mentally strong enough to keep going under any circumstance.  No situation is ever gonna be ideal, something you probably should’ve learned about academia by now.

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