Conference FAQ

This FAQ provides a basic overview of responsibilities for conference presenters and participants. It should be supplemented by the conference website, which has detailed information for participants about submissions, audio-visual facilities, and other information.

I am not familiar with academic conferences. What can I expect?

The Association meets as part of the Popular Culture Association and participants are expected to conform to the norms and standards of academic discourse as well as adhere to the highest standards of professional behavior. The PCA has a Code of Ethics that governs all participants. The Association has its own Code of Ethics as well.

The Association also has an active program of extra-conference activities, meeting for meals and social occasions throughout the conference. Participants and guests typically come early and stay late. Scholars find the group’s social events to be a critical part of the conference, and often where they gain the most helpful feedback and insights.

Who can participate in the conference?

The Popular Culture Association conference, where the Association meets, is open to all paying attendees. The Association encourages participation from scholars at all levels and welcomes independent scholars.

Interested potential participants who have not presented at an academic conference should attend a conference meeting before submitting a presentation in order to better understand what to expect and become familiar with the conference setting and the group’s conversation and dynamics. An initial visit will also help you refine your argument and let you network with experts.

I don’t want to give a presentation at the conference. Can I still attend?

Yes. We welcome visitors every year who enjoy hearing the sessions, and not all participants give papers. There are other ways to participate as well, including chairing panels and helping with social events or special sessions.

Members are always encouraged to attend the annual meeting, which happens during the conference.

I am not a member of the Association. Can I still give a conference presentation?

Yes. The Association meets at the Popular Culture Association conference, and anyone can submit a proposal to the Grateful Dead area, register, and present. Not all proposals may be accepted. Membership in the Association does not guarantee acceptance, nor is it a prerequisite for presenting.

I am not an academic or a professional scholar. Can I still give a conference presentation?

Yes. The Association and the conference encourage all levels of academics, and Grateful Dead studies has a long tradition of welcoming independent scholars, writers, and thinkers who work outside of academe.

Novices should attend a meeting and observe before they submit a presentation to learn how the conference works and see what kinds of presentation are appropriate. The group welcomes presentations from a wide range of perspectives, including those that are more personal but are still rigorous and designed to appeal to critical audiences.

What kinds of presentations are accepted?

Presentations cover the gamut from detailed, microcosmic analyses of individual songs, albums, and concerts to broader assessments of the band’s history, cultural impact, and significance.

The group is noted for its interdisciplinarity: more than 26 disciplines and fields have participated in Grateful Dead studies, and all are welcome. Past programs on this site indicate the range of disciplines, fields, theoretical perspectives and methodologies informing the discourse.

All presentations, papers, and roundtables must meet traditional scholarly standards, be rigorous and creative, and offer new insights into Grateful Dead studies. Proposals should demonstrate a deep awareness of the field, including earlier publications, as well as any broader disciplinary and theoretical perspectives.

How comprehensive should my abstract be?

Abstracts are both outlines and summaries. Your abstract should convey clearly the argument you will make, referring to any major authorities and contexts. Be aware that your abstract will be printed in the Association program, and should serve as a meaningful guide for readers now and in the future of what you said and why it mattered.

Your abstract is a mini-essay and should represent your best work and writing.

How long should my presentation be?

Presentations are 15 to 20 minutes long. The basic rule of thumb for reading a paper aloud is three minutes per page of double-spaced text (Times roman, 12-point type). You should time your presentation before you give it to make sure you fall within the time limit. This is critical: you do not want to be rude to your fellow panelists and take up their time, and you don’t want to appear amateurish or selfish to the group.

How long are panels?

Panels are usually 90 minutes long. The PCA usually specifies 3 to 4 papers per panel, which allows time for discussion and questions at the end.

How do roundtable discussions work?

Roundtables are moderated conversations between panelists who have all prepared a conversation on a topic. Usually a moderator recruits 3 to 5 panelists who work together, via conference calls and emails, to create an agenda and ensure a good conversation. On special occasions, roundtables can be as few as a moderator and two panelists.

Roundtable discussions can take several different forms. All begin with the moderator establishing the topic, often reading a prepared statement (5 to 10 minutes) and introducing the panelists, followed by questions for the panelists. The moderator guides the discussion and prepares questions, as do panelists.

After conversation between panelists, the moderator takes questions from the audience.

How challenging are questions?

This is a professional academic conference with rules of etiquette that all participants follow. Questions are taken by panel moderators in the order they are raised; audience members raise their hands to be recognized. The goal of the discourse is to strengthen ideas and polish arguments, so questions tend to be probing but constructive. The Association fosters a dynamic that prizes courtesy, and if participants have serious disagreements, they usually conduct those discussions informally after sessions.

I have a tight schedule. Can I ask to be scheduled at a specific time?

No. The Area Chair submits panels and may ask for a particular order, but the schedule is up to the conference administrators. Schedule restrictions also hamper effective panel formation: since the Area Chair has to assemble panels from individual submissions, it is important that all presenters be able to attend the entire conference, since that ensures the most coherent themes for sessions.

If you are presenting, you should plan on arriving before the conference begins and staying through the end. Not only will that ensure that you get the most out of your experience, it is also professional courtesy to your colleagues.

Are there social events?

Yes! The conference has its own slate of social events, including a reception which area participants and guests attend, and the group has its own social events, including an opening night reception, a hootenanny (Dead scholars tend to be very good musicians), and group dinners. We also usually have a farewell party and dinner after the conference ends.