How to get the most out of scientific conferences

Conferences can seem like a great opportunity to take time off work and escape from your daily lab and home routine. No cooking, no pipetting, no cleaning… sounds pretty great right? But, that being said, conferences can also be the opposite of a break. With so many things you can learn, so many social events to attend, and so many people you’d like to connect with, it’s easy to overlook the essentials on how to get the most out of a conference.

Here are 6 tips to keep in mind for the next time you’re off to a conference.

 

Go over the program well in advance
Scan the abstracts weeks in advance to get an idea of who will be attending, what topics will be discussed and what workshops you’re interested in. Flag all of the presentations and poster sessions that you want to attend and prioritize them by importance. Once you’ve sorted out all the presentations and poster sessions you want to go to, identify open time slots for when you’ll have time to network or visit the vendors you want to talk to.

 

Take advantage of social media
Being active on social media during a conference can help you get the most out of the experience, expand your network, and build your personal brand. Make use of the conference hashtag on Twitter or Instagram and be ready to share your own thoughts and comments. It’s also a great way to figure out who’s also at the conference so you can reach them out. That said, don’t get carried away by “tweeting” or “instragraming” the event so much that you forget to network or listen to speakers. Instead, try to take your online conversations offline and make plans to meet up with other attendees during a session. These can be some of the most valuable connections.

 

Network as much as possible
Networking is one of the most valuable aspects of a scientific conference. Don’t be shy, introduce yourself to new people and start a conversation before or after a talk, at meals, or social gatherings. Invite them to your poster presentation or talk and ask for feedback, especially if there’s a potential for collaboration.

 

Divide and conquer simultaneous sessions
If you’re attending a conference with other colleagues and are interested in simultaneous sessions or workshops, consider splitting up to make the most out of each of them. You can also plan a short debriefing meeting after sessions to share insights.

 

Don’t overlook the trade show
Conferences are your chance to learn more about the technical side of your field with minimal effort. Even if you are not planning on buying anytime soon, ask vendors about products and services to get information for future reference. Make connections at vendor’s booths during poster presentations and take the time to attend technical talks to get a grasp on how different technologies may boost your research.

 

Have fun
Of course, the main goals of a conference is to walk away with new knowledge and connections, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun too. Conferences are one of the best ways to see the world. If the conference is in a city you’ve never been to, take advantage of sightseeing and try out the local food too.