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Making the most of a conference and networking

Page history last edited by Guien Miao 1 year, 8 months ago

Date: 19/07/2021

Speakers: Euan Lindsay and Scott Smith



  • What are your priorities for the conference? That will help you figure out what to do while you’re there
  • Technical scholarship, opportunity to publish, maintaining networks (seeing the same people over and over at annual conferences)


  • Stick around afterwards, find out what else happens around (before/after) the conference
  • Be aware of when sessions run, find sessions you need to attend
  • Deliberately schedule things around why you are there
  • It’s okay to skip sessions to have a detailed discussion with someone else
  • Use the breaks between sessions to have conversations
    • knowing your flexibility will help you decide whether to continue a conversation now or later


  • Where are you staying in relation to the location of the conference?
  • Know where to find pharmacies, food, etc.
  • Feel free to be a tourist before or after


  • Am I here for the posters, presentations, workshops?
  • Attend a session you know nothing about
    • push yourself out of your comfort zone
  • Review papers for the conference
    • be paper neutral – every paper generates 2-3 reviews, so review 3 papers
    • you might feel freedom to not attend sessions if you’ve already reviewed papers from that session
  • Presenting
    • be proactive about when you want your warnings (can ask for longer warnings if needed)
    • go in and test the slides before the session in the actual room
    • know what you’ll do when the AV breaks at the conference
    • get a friend to ask you a Dorothy Dixer, have a slide after your presentation
    • don’t let your PhD student out unless they’re ready – let them answer questions themselves
  • Chair a session
    • make it enjoyable and easy, give an overview at the end and people will leave the session feeling they’ve learnt something useful
    • keep to time, cut people off
    • facilitate discussions and have a question for each presenter (hopefully don’t have to because there are enough questions in the room)
    • ask to be a co-chair to learn from chair if you are less experienced
  • Join in the social activities
  • Attend the conference dinner and know the dress code
  • If you are invited to dinner, say yes
  • Give yourself permission to not work and recharge batteries
    • put an away message in email and be disciplined, don’t check emails
    • put a longer period in your out-of-office (manage expectations of those who are emailing you)
  • Think about things you can talk about next year and think about what one of your colleagues would be interested in – send papers around to your colleagues after the conference
    • a good way to maintain existing relationships – and inviting them to pay it back
    • doing it within your school/faculty positions you as the school/faculty expert


  • Who do I want to see?
    • Meet with both existing networks and new people 
  • How will new connections know who you are?
    • Follow up with an email and some sort of identifier (“we spoke about x” or “I was the one with the purple ponytail”)
  • Don’t travel as a pack with people you already know
  • Figure out who is the most important person in the room (nodes amongst the community)
    • look for someone who has co-authored with lots of people, well-regarded, friendly
  • Talk with senior colleagues to get a list of key people to approach
    • this “gives you permission” to go up to someone and talk to them
  • Collect business cards from 10 people + email them a thank you (+ say hello/give a seminar the next time you’re in their part of the world or see them at the next conference)
    • don’t be discouraged if people don’t follow up or if they don’t respond to your follow-up
  • Everyone has something interesting to say
    • remember that who you approach is an expert in their field, not everything

Running a conference of your own

  • Support network for younger colleagues
  • Entertaining conference for old colleagues
  • Blend of technical and social side
  • Create long breaks to have good conversations
  • Choose correct food for chatting on the side
  • Make activities for people to talk



  • Connections made via the chat/back channels during sessions
  • Breakout rooms before/after the dinner/awards ceremony around shared interests
  • Keep in mind travelling to a conference means leaving things behind while online conferences compete with everyday life


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