First time conference-goer or seasoned professional? Conferences are a part of loads of different industries but particularly academia. It is where postgraduates and academics share their research and mingle with others to develop relationships. My first conference was in 2013 and I’m only on my third now so they are still rather daunting prospects but here are my top tips for a fun and interesting conference experience.
If you are interested in reading about my PhD more generally, click here.
1. Chat to Strangers
It is not often that you hear that piece of advice but it is so important at a conference. Everyone is more comfortable with their friends or people they work with but conferences are all about meeting new people and developing connections with others working in your industry. These connections could lead to new, cool projects or jobs in the future so move away from your best friend and chat to a complete randomer.
2. Do Your Homework
Okay so you have walked up to that complete stranger but what do you say? My advice is, if it is a small conference, do your homework beforehand: find out who is attending from the programme and have a little google. Just finding about what they work on or where they live can give you something to chat about but try not to sound like a cyber stalker!
3. Eat Dinner Before the Wine Reception
Conferences often have drinks receptions to help people to mingle – a glass or two of Merlot can make talking to people much less daunting BUT pace yourself. When the booze is flowing make sure that you have eaten enough or that you swap drinks with water to make sure you don’t get too tipsy. No one wants to be the person that gets drunk and says something embarrassing plus who likes hangovers?!
4. Paper Preparation
If you are giving a paper or presentation then make sure that you are completely ready before you head off to the conference. Finish writing it, print out your copy, and make sure that your PowerPoint is loaded onto a USB stick. Conferences can be stressful and intense so don’t make it worse by trying to write your paper whilst your there. On the day? Buy a bottle of water. A dry mouth does not make for a fun paper-giving experience.
5. Enjoy Yourself!
Conferences are work but they can also be a really great opportunity to meet some new people and to visit new places. So just enjoy being there and eat all the free biscuits you can.