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10 Things To Do at Every Scientific Conference

If you’re a STEM professional, or an aspiring one, then scientific conferences are going to be an important part of your career, whether you work in academia, industry, or government. But figuring out how to get the most out of these events isn’t always obvious, particularly for those new to the experience. So we polled some of our Members and staff for their recommendations on the top ten things everyone, at any stage of their career, should do at a scientific conference.

1. Submit a Poster or Talk Abstract

There’s no better way to get your work out into the world and get instant feedback from your peers and colleagues than to present your work live at a conference. In fact, that’s the whole reason scientific conferences exist. You never know where those next crucial insights are going to come from, but you’ll significantly increase your chances of gaining them by sharing your work.

2. Dress Professionally

Everyone in the room at a conference is a potential colleague, business partner, or employer. And if you’re meeting that person for the first time, you’re making an impression that’s going to stick. Make sure it’s a good impression. Plus, how you dress can have a big impact on your self-esteem and confidence. If you dress in a way that makes you look like you’re at the top of your game, you’re more likely to feel that way too.

3. Bring Business Cards

Even in the age of digital devices, being able to quickly give someone all your relevant contact info on a single card helps ensure not only that they can easily get in touch with you, but also that they’ll remember you at the end of the conference. Even if you don’t have an official business card yet, you can make your own at home or order them through inexpensive online printing companies.

4. Download and Use the Event App

These days, more and more conference organizers are going digital when it comes to program booklets and conference materials by using smartphone apps for their events (the Academy uses an app for all of our events). But another benefit of event apps is the networking opportunities embedded within them. For instance, you can often view a list of attendees and request their contact info directly in event apps.

5. Arrive When Registration Opens

Many conferences host breakfast receptions during morning registration periods. This is an under-appreciated time to network. It’s also a great time to get a sense of who else is at the conference and who you might want to connect with during the day. An added bonus if you’re at the conference on your own is that you might meet people to compare notes with throughout the conference.

6. Sit Near the Front

Not only will you have the best line of sight to the speakers and their slides, you’ll also be closer to the speaker at the end of the talk if it’s someone you’d really like to chat with.

7. Take Notes

Conferences can sometimes feel a bit daunting when there are lots of different ideas being discussed. A great way to stay focused is by jotting down notes during the talks you attend. After the conference they can also help jog your memory, when you want to remember some of the most important things that were said.

8. Ask Questions

Many times it can feel like everyone in the room is nodding along in complete agreement through an entire talk, but often that’s more perception than reality. Science today is inherently complex and there’s a lot that attendees don’t know, or nuances that speakers don’t explore. Make a point of asking at least a couple of questions at every conference you attend. And when you ask your question, start by stating your name, saying where you work or attend school, and then ask your question. This gives people an easy way to follow up with you if they’re interested in the question you asked.

9. Post to Social Media

Not only does posting to social help the friends and colleagues following you gain insights from the conference you’re attending, it also gives you a chance to build connections. Posting, liking, and sharing on social at a conference is a great way to network, often giving you access to people you might not otherwise meet. Just make sure to use the conference hashtag so people can find your posts easily.

10. Attend the Networking Reception

Time and time again, we hear from our Members that they’ve met business partners or research collaborators during our conferences, and it’s inevitably because they stuck around to have those face-to-face conversations at the end of the day. Struggling with where to start the conversation? Did someone in the crowd ask a provocative question that interested you? Follow up there. Or strike up a conversation with those next to you in line for food or drinks. Where did they travel from? What brought them to the conference? Once you break the ice, things get a lot easier, and you’ll be surprised how much less intimidating these events can be once you’ve done it a few times.

Now that you’re ready to get the most out of your next scientific conference, check out our list of upcoming events, so you can put these suggestions to use.


Academy Staff
This article was written by a member of the Academy staff.