António Ferreira is a student at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD) and was in Tallinn from June 16 to 20, for the world's largest academic networking conference - TNC19. The challenge was launched by GÉANT to all European Education and Research Networks and was once again operationalized in Portugal by FCCN. It is not the first time that UTAD has seen its students among those selected to take advantage of all the benefits of being chosen to speak at the TNC Lightning Talks. For António Ferreira, the experience "was rewarding" and "it had an impact on me to be able to make a presentation at this conference", he explains.
How did the possibility of participating in TNC 2019 come about?
The possibility came up through my advisor Emanuel Peres. He knows the competition well, as in the past he has had students representing other works, such as José Brito. When the competition opened my advisor said it would be good for me to take part and send in a document, so I did so with the help of both my advisors, Emanuel Peres and Telmo Adão.
Can you describe the scope and object of the communication you made?
My project is about building a machine learning tool for forest and agricultural species identification. Being a student at the University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro I have a huge privilege of being surrounded by forest species every time I enter the campus, and not only. The Douro Region is rich in grape variety species that need to be identified. My project was born from the need for a tool that can help people identify these species.
How would you describe not just the minutes of the presentation but the whole experience?
My whole experience was a rollercoaster of emotions, because I was looking forward to all the presentations that the conference offered me but every time I was sitting in the audience chairs, while I saw other people speaking on the stage, I would look over and I would see lots of people, there were around six hundred - if I'm not mistaken - and I would think "I still have to present in front of all these people". And I was a bit afraid that I would forget something I had to say during the presentation, so I admit that on the second day of the conference, which was the first day of the Lightning Talk ChallengeI couldn't get much out of it, until I presented, because I was anxious. During the lunch hour, I and some other presenters of the challenge, had the opportunity to test the presentation, which was very good, because it gave to have the perception of what I could or could not do. For example: both microphones were directional, so if I walked twenty centimeters to the side nobody could hear me, because of this test I went with the idea of 'staying planted' right in front of the microphone so as not to ruin everything right away. When the five minutes presentations started it was complicated, because I've never done a presentation for more than fifty people, let alone six hundred. I was nervous, but as soon as I got up on stage and started speaking, it was different, I was anxious and at the same time I was confident, because I saw people smiling (my presentation had a bit of humour), others waving, it was an inspiring moment, I was happy during the presentation and felt confident, I didn't even forget to breathe! (I had notes on cards to remind me to breathe, because when I get anxious I start talking super fast and no one understands me).
When I finished the presentation everything was different, I went to see everything I could, I loved the conference, I met new people, I talked about my project with people I had never seen before, I questioned other presenters about their projects, it was all good, not only the conference, but the city of Tallinn itself which is very beautiful.
Do you feel that the TCN19 audience was interested in your project?
I feel that the audience was attentive and liked it, clearly not everyone has an interest in machine learning or agriculture, but I think that in total people liked it and that was the impression I had. As soon as we had a break and even during the other days I had people from the audience interacting with me, asking me about my project, others praising the presentation itself, the reaction was positive in my opinion.
How might this moment impact the future?
This moment has already had an impact on me as it is gratifying to be able to give a presentation at this conference and has increased my confidence for future presentations or even to communicate in English Language.
The Video of Antonio's presentation can be seen in this link (from minute 59).