Every other year, depending on my scientific efforts, I get to go to a conference abroad. Going to a conference is kinda like going to Disneyland: Countless things to do, but only very little time.
The opportunities there are overwhelming. There are
- numerous great presentations
- interesting topics
- amazing researchers
- great speakers you can get to know.Time is very sparse and it’s easy to lose focus. Many times I felt depressed because I felt I missed out on so many great things. To avoid this feeling, here are my 6 steps to getting the most out of your next conference.
Be clear about your one MAIN goal on that conference.
You can get almost anything but you can’t get everything out of a good conference. So you have to decide what your main reason is and what your focus is on that conference. Then you can make sure you won’t drift.Do you want to boost your research project?Do you want to network, get to know a VIP?Do you want to improve your clinical work?What else do you want to get done?
Study the program.More than likely, the conference program will be widely available online weeks before the conference starts. Study the sessions extensively and look for titles related to your topic.Keep in mind that on big conferences speaker rooms will be far apart. In my experience it doesn’t make much sense to change rooms during a session because more than likely they will be crowded.
Study the speaker list.Networking can be important if you want to get ahead.If you have identified an interesting person you ould like to get in touch with there are different options:
Look up, whether this person delivers a poster presentation. Generally, poster presenters are thankful when somebody talks to them. So check out where they are, read their abstract and walk up to them. Introduce yourself, compliment on their work and ask a (not so stupid) question.
Also, if the scene is not too crowded, you can talk about your project and drop him/her a card.Another (less popular) option is this one: Shoot them an email saying, you would like to meet them and if you may invite them for coffee to ask them a couple of questions. In my experience busy persons will generally decline this Anfrage.
There are so many good opportunities on a conference. Don’t follow the temptation to drift, instead stick to your goal (Step 1), because otherwise you’ll lose track easily.
If you decide to attend and pay money for a seminar, you should prepare. Don’t waste time there understanding things you could have read in a mediocre book. Instead, contact the teacher to show you some tricks, which you can’t read anywhere. Or ask him questions you cannot look up anywhere else.
Plan some evening program so you can enjoy the time, too.