Are you a newbie in to the academic conference circuit? Have no fear!!
Disclaimer: this advice is from a 23 year old who has attended geography and earth science conferences. Take the information with a grain of salt and check out some more articles to be extra prepared
Heres your quick and simple first timer guide:
Before the conference:
If you are presenting, check out this post! Thats all I’m going to say about that
Download the schedule. Most conferences have an app. Look up terms that you’re interested in. Look up colleagues and professors. Obviously things will change when you get there, but you will be so happy to have a plan, even if loose, before you go.
Make business cards. Business cards dont have to be fancy or say much of anything. You can order cards for super cheap on Snapfish, and when you’re making them try and opt for something simple with room to write. During your conversation with someone you can give them the card and write on it “met at poster session” or “interested in …” so that they have a better chance of remembering you.
Plan some, but not too much, sight seeing… If you really want to see the town you are staying in, get a flight for a day or two later. It can be really stressful trying to soak in all the majesty of a town between networking and socializing all day.
Pack fun clothes. Really consult someone from your field on this one. Speaking from an academic perspective, its not a bad thing to stand out a little. Wear some fun colors or prints. Also bring a thing or two to change into after the conference when you are out.
During the conference:
Take notes in sessions. Bring a small notebook and take notes during the sessions. You will be more engaged and a computer is far too large and rude to whip out in a session.
Sleep. At least try to sleep. I was shocked at how late people stayed out after the first conference I went to. Do not be afraid to go back to your room and take a quick cat nap if you’re feeling exhausted.
Good shoes. This one is a given. As for your whole wardrobe, wear something that makes you feel confident but does not irritate in ANY way. You will surely feel it by the end of the day if you chose a poor outfit.
Go outside. Try to have some meetings outside, go for a walk when you’re taking a call. Lay in the grass if possible. DO IT. Conferences tend to have so much inside time and very little windows or opportunities to get outside so take them when you get the chance.
Do not grab too much free stuff. It is tempting when you see tables of pens and shirts and junk. Only take things you’ll actually use when you get home. All of this junk has to go into your luggage so plan accordingly.
After the conference:
Follow up with an email! You probably acquired a couple of cards as you were making your rounds at the conference. Wait a couple of days, and send an email to anyone you exchanged information with, even if you are not interested in a job or internship. It is always good to establish an initial connection!! Make the email short and sweet, and don’t take offense if they don’t immediately reply.
Reflect on your notes. Go back through that little notebook and organize what you write down. Find sources of information that inspired you! Make a nice typed summary of what your impressions were, what you learned, and whos presentations you liked. This will come in handy in the future!
If someone sponsored you, thank them! Send a card or shoot a quick email. I feel like this is pretty explanatory.
Best of luck! Practice your presentation! and whatever you do WEAR COMFY SHOES!!