Conferences can induce fear in early PhD students, and I’m no different. I graduated in June 2015 and have been working on my PhD project for 4 and a half months now. That’s really not very long and I still have fleeting thoughts of ‘I am not intelligent enough for this’, so when it came to walking into the conference hall last Monday morning I was really quite nervous. I’d been told great things about conferences, ‘they’ll motivate you so much’, ‘you’ll come home with refreshed enthusiasm and drive to complete your work’ and ‘ooh this one’s a really nice one too, you’ll have so much fun!’ – happy to report all these things are true. I survived the conference, genuinely enjoyed it, learned tonnes and came back exhausted but definitely enthused.
I attended the 3rd International Clinical Trials Methodology Conference in Glasgow, an event catering for over 600 delegates from more than 10 countries. There were talks all day covering a hugely varied array of topics within the field, covering different methodologies and encompassing research groups from all over the UK. If you’re in the field of Health Services Research, clinical trials or anything else related I’d recommend you go. The conference allowed me to begin networking in my field, find potential future collaborators and gain insights from those with more experience than I have.
A few tips I picked up that may benefit those PhD students who haven’t yet attended their first conference:
- Ask as many questions as you can think of – you’ll learn much more if you engage
- Get business cards printed – I didn’t and it would have been useful to give out a neat little card instead of scribbling on a piece of paper ripped from my notebook
- Don’t stick with people you know – you’ll defeat the point of going to the conference at all, push yourself to meet and talk to new people
- Follow the conference hashtag on Twitter – I found this helpful for catching up on sessions I had to miss due to clashes in the programme
Since returning from the conference I’ve actively looked for opportunities to present my work and interact with those who will listen to me talk about it. I realise I need to get more comfortable with presenting and talking in front of large audiences, so I’m currently putting together an abstract for talk I’d like to give at a conference next year. The opportunity to see what other research groups are doing even before they’ve had time to publish is such a great thing, and I think it’s fair to say that everyone left the conference having had a great few days of networking, learning and attempting to escape the Scottish weather!
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