Last Sunday I attended a small conference for AMWA members within my area. The conference was pretty amazing! I met some pretty great students and presenters and learned about some really interesting topics. It was a one-day event and it covered topics such as maternal mortality, understanding resilience, and much more.
Attending academic or professional conferences along with many other events, such as seminars, has become a big part of my academic career and they have been great experiences that have heavily impacted my life. They have helped me to develop and grow academically and personally. I think these conferences are important for anyone who is interested in learning more about the field they plan on pursuing for a number of reasons.
It is a great way to network.
If you are attending the conference with people you know, make sure you don’t spend all your time with them. Walk up to someone, shake their hand and strike a conversation. This can be a bit nerve-racking – it still is for me even after attending numerous events. But for many sessions, you may end up sitting or standing next to someone you do not know. While you can support each other and network together, make sure to be welcoming to outsiders or you won’t network adequately.
Speaking to people I don’t know is a skill that I am still trying to develop. I find it even harder to do when I need to talk to people when I am in a new place or discussing a topic I don’t have a lot of experience with. But with enough practice I’m sure we can master this skill.
Tip: network with speakers and discuss their presentations. Liked it? Let them know. Disagree with parts of it? Discuss your different opinions. Want to know more? Ask questions. Many speakers will be happy to have a discussion about their topic.
Get educated on various topics.
Conferences can be great ways to catch up on the new ideas in your field. I have learned about a number of topics from attending events like these including talks ranging from career development to academic paths to applying classroom lessons in daily life.
To be honest, not every talk has been impactful for me or changed my way of thinking. But I still think it is important to attend topics that you may not be really interested in because it is good to branch out. Branching out into other interests can help you find something you never expected to be interested in. Or you can see a talk and learn some techniques about public speaking or powerpoint skills. I once attended a talk with the most amazing presentation that afterward someone even asked him about it. You honestly never know what things you can pick up from a talk or session.
Connect with like-minded individuals.
One of my favorite things about these conferences is meeting people who have shared interests as me. Conferences tend to be places where people gather from various academic institutions and levels in their careers. No two people have the same stories to tell, and speaking with people from various backgrounds always reminds me that no two paths are the same. It is also pretty great to talk with others when you are not discussing school like exams or homework, and you can also get advice or inspiration.
When I started attending conferences I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had some tips from classes but mostly I learned from trial and error. Of course, I’m not prepared for every situation but I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Prepping for a Conference
- make business cards
- update your resume and LinkedIn
- practice your elevator pitch
- check the itinerary and see what you want to check out
- look up the topics and speakers that you will be seeing and read up on them
- see if your school or the conference host offer funding for travel or registration
After the C
- email the new contacts you made within 1-2 weeks
- read up on any topics that you may have become interested in
- share interesting information with your personal network
- if you received funding, share your experience and what you gained with the organization
Academic conferences can be a great experience for a number of reasons. Try to find a few that you are interested in. You never know where they can lead! Good luck!