Surviving Conference Season…and Wedding Season

confettiThis time last year I was getting ready for wedding season, being in my late twenties I think this is how most summers are going to go for the foreseeable future last year I had four, this year I’m down to two and next year back up to three (so far!!) Wedding season means a whole range of different things: visits to various out of the way manors; barns and hotels; wondering what I’ll wear; worrying who I’ll have to sit next to and make small talk with; bets on how long the speeches will be and who will cry first. Of course it also means celebrating the coming together of two loving individuals and all that good stuff, but other than this last bit it’s struck me just how similar wedding season is to the conference season I’m currently prepping for.

This summer I’m attending and presenting at three conferences and many of my worries are similar: traveling to new places; planning trains, planes and hotels; packing a million different outfits and wondering if I’ll be too formal/casual; worrying if I’ll know anyone/who I’ll talk to/sit next to at the conference dinner; hoping that presentations I’ve chosen to attend will be interesting and entertaining.

These might seem like flippant worries but the ‘important’ worries of how and what to present have been well covered in my practice presentations, discussions with supervisors and advice from peers. It’s all the other bits I worry about, the flippant stuff that reminds me of wedding season!

It’s also these other more seemingly flippant concerns are the reasons why conferences are important. They are a chance to get yourself known and noticed with your peers, potential colleagues and employers. They offer the opportunity to meet the authors of the books and papers that have influenced and inspired your own research. Presenting yourself in these more informal and social settings is something that is important to consider.

I’ve found some really great advice from various places and thought I’d point you to some of the things that I’m hoping will help me over the next couple of months…

1. Try not to be afraid to meet new people

Don’t be afraid of meeting scholars whose work you know, either. If you’re feeling shy, ask a professor or mutual friend to introduce you. I scan the program for scholars whose work I use and then attend their sessions. I make sure to go up and meet them afterwards and I’ve found people are usually always gracious and friendly in these circumstances.

2. Ask More, Listen More, Talk Less About Yourself

Don’t you find annoying that guy that can’t stop talking about himself and the things he does? Guess what? People won’t like you if you keep talking about yourself.

Doesn’t it feel good when people ask you things and want to know more about you? Doesn’t it make you feel a bit important? That you are worth listening? Guess what? People would like the same from you.

3. Have 2 Elevator Pitches Ready

First elevator pitch: your grandma should understand it easily. This one you will use for non-experts in your field.

Second elevator pitch: include all sorts of complicated jargon and be so scientifically correct that your PI couldn’t find a single flaw in your speech. This is for experts in your field.

4. I also found this great ‘what not to wear’ blog that starts with the pros and cons of the ‘definitive white shirt’ and ends with a discussion of Pierre Bourdieu and cultural capital!

I’ll let you know how these tips work out in practice…

(p.s. I wonder how many of these would also help me get through wedding season?!)