Kathryn is a doctoral researcher about to give her fourth conference paper. She is a part-time student in education. A teacher by profession, she has twenty years experience, fi ve of which have been spent as the successful principal of a primary school. Despite her acknowledged expertise in her ‘day job’, and despite having attended more conferences than she cares to remember, she feels nervous and almost panic-stricken at the prospect of speaking in public to an academic audience. She is four years into the PhD, has spoken at graduate student conferences and has just completed her fi eldwork. Yet she cannot avoid the feeling of being naked and vulnerable to the negative opinions of ‘real scholars’. She dreads being either patronized or attacked, and suggests to her supervisor Janet, minutes before the presentation begins, that she hopes no one comes. But they do. A sizeable audience noisily sits down, attracted by Kathryn’s topic.