Conference bingo

by Eszter Hargittai on July 31, 2008

Kieran and I (anyone else from around here?) are heading to the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association this weekend. While I think playing buzzword bingo at a presentation is a bit rude, the idea of having a bingo card for the whole conference seems more reasonable. Kieran’s put together a really fun one [pdf], check it out, it can likely be tweaked quite easily for endless amusement at your own upcoming convention.

Possible additions/substitutions?

  • Mac user surprised that cable won’t connect to projector
  • Use of PowerPoint in Normal View instead of Slide Show
  • Aimless lingerer at book exhibit
  • Loitering at book exhibit in hopes of finding editor
  • “But you didn’t write the paper I would have written” comment during Q&A
  • Never-ending comment posing as question during Q&A



sean 07.31.08 at 2:25 am

“But why don’t you study my narrow little research corner?” posing as a legitimate quetsion.


OneEyedMan 07.31.08 at 2:27 am

Someone who was supposed to read a paper for the conference hasn’t done so


Mitch 07.31.08 at 2:33 am

“habitus” ? Is that a euphemism for …what?


Caleb D'Anvers 07.31.08 at 3:24 am

Unidentifiable hors d’ouvre.

Red wine spilled on shirt by wildly gesticulating colleague during drinks reception.

Bestest-friend conference buddy whom you will never, ever see or hear from again.

Pervasive performance-art element to conference due to (over)-involvement of Host University drama department.

‘Theme’ conference dinner with inedible ‘period’ menu.


Chris Bertram 07.31.08 at 3:40 am

Get lost and fail to find venue for conference dinner.

American participant not conforming to American academic dress code (score extra points).

Respected senior figure hitting on grad student/junior person at drinks reception.


jj2 07.31.08 at 5:03 am

Cultural capital, as inversely related to economic capital.

Homo Academicus.

As in, Academics re the secular clerics of the postmodern state…


Anon 07.31.08 at 5:14 am

The Google search for “ASA meeting” puts you at #6, beaten by the anesthesiologists (twice!), acousticians(?), agronomists, and statisticians. And that’s right on the eve of your meeting. That’s rough.

I wonder how many non-academic meeting details would work for bingo. Engineers, for example, would have “Embedded movie doesn’t play,” but I can’t imagine that’s a huge problem at the ASA. What about “Plot labels and key unreadably small”?

I’m surprised at “Habitus”. That’s so corporate. Back in my undergrad days it was all about “transgressive”. At the same time, we were more about “Towards” than “Beyond”, so maybe we weren’t as radical as we thought.

Enjoy Boston!



ejh 07.31.08 at 9:11 am

A simpler version is the “discourse sweepstake” in which everybody guesses how often the speaker will use the term “discourse”. This may or may not be rude but it should keep the audience awake.


Naadir Jeewa 07.31.08 at 9:19 am

“Never-ending comment posing as question during Q&A.” That makes things too easy.


Simstim 07.31.08 at 9:56 am

What about “performance art posing as question during Q&A”?


Thom Brooks 07.31.08 at 10:14 am

. . . and don’t forget person dozzing off in back row snoring just loud enough to hear.


deliasmith 07.31.08 at 10:34 am

. . . and don’t forget person dozzing off in back row snoring just loud enough to hear.

I’ve seen this at an urban history conference in Amsterdam, but it was front row and top man in field.

The same man then got left behind from the conference outing.

(As it was in Amsterdam the outing was on foot, so he was able to attempt to catch us up. The excursion was to view a clandestine Roman Catholic chapel dedicated the Virgin Mary built in the roofspace of a merchant’s house during the most enthusiastic phase of the Reformation. By unskilful application of what little Dutch he had, and over-helpful interpretation by English-speaking passers-by, he was directed to a top-floor brothel – can’t see this happening in Boston, though).

During the same conference my roommate was mugged at gunpoint and I had to fund him for the duration of the conference.


Chris Williams 07.31.08 at 11:20 am

Come on Delia, give us some more details about the Amsterdam episode – I’ve narrowed it down to about 3 candidates…

For the bingo:

“Horribly vituperative question which can only have been motivated by speaker running off with questioner’s partner some time in the 1980s.”

“Unsatifactory dinner crowd gathered with great delay and confusion.”

“Questioners gradually realise that the speaker isn’t paying attention to their increasingly exasperated attempts to point out giant flaw in speaker’s logic.”


Doug T 07.31.08 at 12:24 pm

Maybe it’s a science conference thing, but I’d add “Language barrier/accent preventing questioner from being understood, requiring at least 2 “would you repeat that” clarifications before the presenter gets embarassed and just decides to answer a question they thing the person could possibly have been asking.”

As far as “Never-ending comment posing as question during Q&A” goes, Kieran already had a Free square.

Also maybe in the too easy to include category, but “nested video in presentation failing to work properly.”


Eszter 07.31.08 at 12:26 pm

Some good ones here!

Red wine spilled on shirt by wildly gesticulating colleague during drinks reception.

This just happened to a friend of mine at an other conference, by senior colleague.

Plot labels and key unreadably small.

Too easy! But yeah, I know, some of mine (and some of Kieran’s) are almost free for the taking as well.


jacob 07.31.08 at 12:49 pm

How about, Panelist, when told his/her time is almost up, attempts to summarize fifteen pages in one minute. Or the related, Panelist: “And, for reasons of time, I’ll skip this section”


The weakest link 07.31.08 at 1:06 pm

Great! I work on political economy in a field dominated by discourse fiends, so more panelists than audience members is easy for me.

I’ll up the ante a bit –
How about “Roomate locks you out of hotel room for random THREE-SOME hookup” (Miami, 2000) or even better, “Discussant clearly has not read the papers and shows up too stoned to fake it” (Fort Worth, 1999). (His excuse: it’s an 8:00 AM panel on a Sunday morning, no one will show. To my great satisfaction, it was standing room only and we had a great discussion of our papers with the audience as he sat by mute and nauseous.)

And finally: Acquaintance uses you for smalltalk at reception until he/she abruptly ditches you as they see their chance to trade up for someone notable in the field.


Chris Bertram 07.31.08 at 1:11 pm

At one conference I was at, a panelist successfully extended his 20 minute presentation to 50. Every time the chair tentatively waved a “finish” note under his nose, he shouted, excitedly “Cinq minutes! Cinq minutes!” and ploughed on (in French). This left time for one question from the floor, which was asked of the first speaker on the panel (I was number 2, and “cinq minutes” was 3rd). First panelist then disappeared for lunch with a mutual acquaintance who asked how the papers had gone: “Oh, my paper went much better than Chris’s” said no.1, “all the questions were directed at me.”


matt 07.31.08 at 1:22 pm

_American participant not conforming to American academic dress code (score extra points)._

I’d like some examples so I can know how funny this is.

What about:
“Graduate student groupie group of 5 or more around a star figure”

“panel moved from one room to another, at least one panelist or moderator fails to find new room.”

“Coffee service starts too late to be useful”

“No clean water glasses left in room after last panel”

“Panel can’t start on time because earlier panel won’t leave room”

“wi-fi doesn’t work”


Chris Williams 07.31.08 at 1:28 pm

Surely it’s easier to play on ‘wi-fi _does_ work”?


Ano 07.31.08 at 1:42 pm

“Somebody farted.”


Dave 07.31.08 at 1:51 pm

@16: French people don’t DO 20-min papers, this is a mere anthropological fact, no-one should have been surprised.


Celso 07.31.08 at 1:53 pm

Presentation of a paper that is almost exactly the same as one presented by the same author in previous meeting of the same association.

Paper that spent one million dollars in a survey to increase R² by 0.00001 in a model with unrealistic assumptions.


deliasmith 07.31.08 at 2:15 pm

It’s true, and it all happened at this conference .

It’s tricky to give details about the snorer, he was, is, a bad-tempered fellow (not one of the listed speakers, incidentally). To help Chris Williams though: I see from Wikipaedia that he left England for the frozen North a long time ago.

The outing was, I now find, to ‘Our Lord in the Attic’ chapel (not the Virgin Mary – which tells against the veracity of the tale that flashed round the conference), which IS in the red light district (and so, on the other hand, speaks for veracity).

On the muggee, though, I can add details: an ex-professional cricketer, in fact international cricketer (albeit Scotland), now a professor at a leading British university. And, as a six-foot-plus athlete it did need a proper revolver, wielded with menace, to separate him from his wallet. Also, a proper gent: he paid me back within hours of our return to the UK.

Appalling to realise it was all so long ago: I recall the whole conference quite clearly. I was there representing a publisher which was on the verge of going under, and had arranged for a specialist academic bookseller in Amsterdam to buy all my unsold display stock at a massive discount at the end of the conference. To save money I took the books out as personal luggage (no RyanAir, no petty weight restrictions in those days), so on my return I was carrying two very light suitcases. Being no mime, I couldn’t trick the sharp eyes at customs and had to open my bags. All that was inside one of them was a few hundred polystyrene beans, used to preserve the books on the trip out, that I hadn’t been able to tip into the litter bins at the IISG in Amsterdam. The customs man raked through the beans, looking for a plastic bag of you-know-what. I then delivered my best-ever line to a uniformed official: ‘I’m smuggling polystyrene.’ Amazingly, I walked away.


G 07.31.08 at 2:41 pm

Panelist pointedly reading the conference program while other panelists’ are giving their papers.


Liz 07.31.08 at 3:15 pm

Sigh! So true, so true! I haven’t looked at the pdf file yet but here are some of mine, some of which have been mentioned:

>Scholar promoting own work in the guise of asking a question.
>Graduate students & foreign scholars crashing receptions because they don’t have money for meals.
>Presenter giving paper that is on a different topic than the one in the schedule.
>Being the only presenter without overhead projections, PowerPoint or handouts (this is me!).
>The convener who can’t figure out whether to start without the entire panel or wait until that last presenter wanders into the session.
>Someone complaining about two sessions scheduled at the same time that are remotely similar themes.
>Scholars who never leave the lobby/bar area to actually go listen to any of the panels.
>Academics looking for jobs at other universities who attend their receptions instead that for their own school.
>Senior scholar who drunkenly reveals damning personal information about him/herself at a reception, causing a graduate student to carry the burden of a huge secret.
>Male academics who look like they slept in their suits on the red-eye (ever hear of an iron?).
>Ph.D. job seekers who are jumping out of their skin and calling the employment center ever 45 minutes to see if someone has responded to a message left for them.
>The audience member who is overly enthusiastic about your work, takes your email address and then never contacts you…ever. Sometimes at future conferences, this person pretends that you’ve never even met.
>First year graduate students who go to panels with big names scholars who are crushed to find them giving ad-hoc presentations or talking off the top of their heads (they can get away with it!).
>Graduate students who buy too many books and are staying at a cheap hotel who have to drag bags of books around all day/evening until they can get back to their hotel (me, again).
>Sessions on “How to get published” or “How to get hired” that are so crowded people are sitting on the floor.
>Advertised discount prominently posted at exhibitor’s booth but scholar asking for additional discount or freebies. Usually met with a smiling shake of the head by book publisher on duty unless it is a textbook company.

Some of these observations are from other, nonsociology conference environments but I thought I’d throw them in.

I’m working on the last revisions of my dissertation so I can’t be in Boston so I’m counting on y’all to Tweet away…I’ll be checking the backchannels for news!


Liz 07.31.08 at 3:20 pm

Oh, one more!

>You try to get together a big group of friends/alumni to go out for dinner and by the time everyone is in one place and you’ve chosen a place to go to, the evening events have already started.

This happens at every conference I’ve gone to so I now only eat with small (6 or fewer people) groups of old friends.


Chris Bertram 07.31.08 at 3:24 pm

#17 I’d like some examples so I can know how funny this is.

Well it isn’t that funny, and it depends a lot on subject. At a recent meeting of the American Society for 18th Century Studies, I felt like the only man who wasn’t wearing tweed jacket, tie, brogues, maybe cord trousers, stripy or check (but sober) shirt. The women also v conservatively dressed. Far more than at a typical UK conference.


Preachy Preach 07.31.08 at 3:46 pm

Long ranty thread about the corporate world equivalent. Lots of overlap, by the looks of it…


christian h. 07.31.08 at 3:53 pm

Suits? Dress codes? Weird. Anyway, how about:

– Bigshot trying to suck up to grad students from host institution… by telling them how much better other schools are.

– group going out for dinner managing to walk around aimlessly for half an hour in precisely the one tiny area of town where no food can be had.

– VIP planning to fly in and out on same day arriving late to say “hello, can’t make my presentation, so sorry” and immediately proceeding to take cab back to airport.


matt 07.31.08 at 3:54 pm

Well, I guess that is the typical “work uniform” for an american academic, unless one is from New York, in which case a black turtle neck is worn.


christian h. 07.31.08 at 4:01 pm

I’m a mathematician, is all. We look all over the place at conferences,


Megan 07.31.08 at 6:24 pm

The Google search for “ASA meeting” puts you at #6, beaten by the anesthesiologists (twice!), acousticians(?), agronomists, and statisticians.

My parents are in two different ASAs, neither of them sociology.


Grand Moff Texan 07.31.08 at 6:40 pm

Long-assed introduction of self in an effort to broadcast one’s work/availability/awesomeness to panel audience before asking a truly banal question that shows that wasn’t the point?


Ginger Yellow 07.31.08 at 9:41 pm

I only do business conferences, but I imagine these apply across the board.

Presentation consists entirely of reading the text of the Powerpoint slides.

Dinner comprises lumps of meat slathered in sauce, plus a vegetarian option of crudites and rice.

Time remaining at the end of the presentation is inversely proportional to the number of questions from the audience.


minneapolitan 07.31.08 at 9:48 pm

26: >Senior scholar who drunkenly reveals damning personal information about him/herself at a reception, causing a graduate student to carry the burden of a huge secret.

My experience, as a non-grad student who hangs out with grad students, is that such burdens are carried neither very long nor very far.


Caleb D'Anvers 08.01.08 at 12:14 am

‘In the longer version of this paper, I …’ Double your points if this comes after the half-hour mark in a ’20 minute’ paper.

Gratuitous PowerPoint slide of Gilles Deleuze.

Edward Said anecdote.

Senior figure hanging out with the grad student crowd in an attempt to appear cool and with it.

Ph.D. student who believes 5000 words is ‘about right’ for a 20-minute presentation, and won’t be persuaded otherwise.

For non-USian players attending Stateside conferences:

Complimented on ‘cuteness’ of accent.

Expression of surprise that you have universities in your country.

‘You must meet [$random_grad_student of same nationality as self]’. Double your points if you then discover you have mutual friends and/or went to the same school, to evident satisfaction of introducing party.


sg 08.01.08 at 7:15 am

But can you beat:

1. panel convener wrestles with audience member for microphone because he doesn’t like the question
2. “this is a very busy graph, I know, but…”


magistra 08.01.08 at 7:22 am

For medievalists:

Distinguished professor disco-dancing enthusiastically.

Distinguished professor disco-dancing impressively well.


Dave 08.01.08 at 9:23 am

“disco-dancing impressively well” – is that possible? I mean, in an absolute sense, as opposed to “quite mobile for her/his age”?


Amanda 08.01.08 at 12:51 pm

Enormous crush of people outside the elevators because the presentation rooms in the hotel are all on the 30th floor.

Desperate vendors trying to get rid of the last of their logo’ed pencils and coffee mug cozies by shoving them at random passers-by just before the exhibits close on the last day. (In my experience, this is more true of library conferences.)


roac 08.01.08 at 1:46 pm

Not an academic, so all I know about academic conferences I learned from reading Small World by David Lodge.

It occurred to me that you could do an advanced board on which all the squares are occupied by things that happened in Small World (e.g., “Abducted by fantastically wealthy and cultivated Marxist for sexual threesome with her husband.”)


Chris Bertram 08.01.08 at 2:08 pm

““Abducted by fantastically wealthy and cultivated Marxist for sexual threesome with her husband.”

I’m afraid that sort of thing is so common these days that it really shouldn’t earn points in a game like this.


Lala 08.01.08 at 8:09 pm

Here’s another one from PhD Comics: Some squares have to be modified though to fit philosophy seminars.


SMG 08.02.08 at 9:29 pm

“I’ve Got a Crush on the Author” lovefest masquerading as an “Author Meets Critics” panel.

Total elevator meltdown due to everyone rushing to panels at the same time.

Audience member opens with “I have a comment and a question,” and then proceeds to offer a never-ending comment followed by, “so I guess the question is, what do you think about that?”


MissLaura 08.03.08 at 1:17 am

Attendees attaching ribbons of various offices and sections to their name badge in inverse proportion to their importance in the discipline. (This is probably another one that could just count as free.)

The most fun I ever had at the ASA was in Philadelphia. I ate gelato like 3 times a day at the place around the corner from the hotel, and I stayed out until 2:30 at a Knitters concert, which was fabulous.


Eszter 08.04.08 at 9:22 pm

How could I have forgotten:

Presenter spends 80% of alloted time on an intro anecdote that wasn’t supposed to be part of the presentation.

Comments on this entry are closed.