It's Conference Season
Updated: Sep 27, 2019
As conference season is upon us, here are some things you should be thinking about before you fly away to sunnier climes.
Conferences are a a great way to showcase the work that you have been doing and connect with others who are equally as passionate about your discipline. But not all of us are pros when it comes to conference'ing. Here are few thoughts to help you get set:
I want to go to conferences but I don't know where to start?
Ok, first of all you need to a find conference to go to. Best place to start is your department - which ones do colleagues or your supervisor normally go to? Next, you need to think about key authors in your field - which conferences do they go to? This will enable you to participate in the right discussion groups for your subject area. Journals are a great first step too. Often journals will have their own dedicated conferences or they will feature at conferences to connect with potential authors. So, if there are any journals you regularly engage with it's worth checking out which conferences they are planning on attending. Similarly, if there is a particular professional body for your discipline they will often share announcements of events, so make sure you are subscribed as you might be able to attend one of these too.
What about speculative conference options?
If you are looking more speculatively you need to do a search on key conference websites. I've included some below. Whichever conference you go for - check it out, get recommendations from people who have attended so you know that it's the right one for you and it's the right quality level.
https://www.ieee.org/conferences/index.html (scroll down to the conference search bar)
When should I start planning for conference submission?
You should be aiming ideally for 18months.
Depending on what stage you are at and also your specific institution, access to funding for conferences can range from the abundant to the non-existent. For example your institution may only have a few points in the year in which you can apply for funding so you don't want to miss those deadlines. So choose conferences carefully and make sure you understand the internal hoops you have to jump through to secure any funding - this is something you can be doing now so you are prepared for the next conference opportunity.
No budget... no problem
If you can't get the funding to go there are other ways you can be 'present' at a conference. Most conferences are pretty savvy with social media so find the hashtag or twitter handle for the conference and participate in the online conversations. You might be able to connect digitally with those who are attending. It will also give you a sense of the key debates and conversation that are running through the conference. There are also virtual conferences - they might not be purely for academics but again it's a great way to enhance your professional development and take those tentative steps in networking. Often chartered bodies or professional membership organisations will offer these for free or at a much cheaper cost. Likewise you can also connect with those attending the conference before you go there too and line up some meetings/quick coffees before you even hit the location.
Before you go?
I've created a little conference packing list - helpful if you're on your first conference trip. I use it whenever I go so I make sure I haven't missed anything. You can download my conference packing checklist here.