I didn’t post a blog last week as I was attending a research conference. Most people as part of their PhD will be requested to attend and/or present at a research conference. If your supervisor doesn’t suggest it, I would recommend that you suggest it to them. Do some searching and find a conference related to your research and go! They can be a great experience – if you get the most out of them. I went on my own, which I did enjoy. I think I met and spoke to more people than I would have if I had known someone at the conference. I thought I would give some tips on how to survive a conference if you are on your own… I know I was a little apprehensive about it before I went! Attending the talks and lectures is fine on your own but to really get the most out of a conference I think you need to start talking to the experts, tradesmen, presenters and other attendees.
Before the conference:
- Have a look over the sessions that are being held (read all the conference information available) decide which you will attend (do not just read the title- make sure you read the abstracts because, as I found out, sometimes things are not all that they appear to be!)
- Do a bit of pre reading around some of the talks/events that you are attending
- Have a look at the social activities planned (if there are any) make sure you pack/ take any specialised clothing you may need
At the conference:
- Arrive early, leave yourself plenty of time to orientate yourself and take part in any pre conference activities (these are great opportunities to meet people)
- Make sure you attend all ‘social’ events organised at the conference (pre drinks/meals/activities)
- Check out the poster sessions – these are a great way to meet and talk to people. Talking about the work presented is a great conversation starter
- If there aren’t any social activities planned and you are struggling to meet people, many conferences will have a spot which becomes a ‘talking point’ (for example at this last conference there was a computer game competition at one of the trade stands) if you get involved/hang around at something like that it is a great conversation topic and ice breaker!
After the conference:
Don’t rush straight back to work. Take some time out to summarise what you learnt any follow ups and write down who you met at the conference. Follow up any connections you made with an email/phone call. Write down information about people you met on their business cards or in a notebook. I quickly forget information and you never know when these people might become useful connections in the future.
Don’t forget to have a good time; you don’t have to talk about work 24/7 with everyone you meet. I find that the connections that I make are stronger if I find I have something in common with the the other person (other than the work I am doing) so make sure you get chatting about their life outside work too!