I’m off to a conference this afternoon, so it was with interest I read this blog on the American HigherEd website: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/university_of_venus/asa2010_multi_tasking_the_academic_conference
Like me, the blogger was off to a large international conference (although hers was in the US and mine is in Finland), and was determined to make the experience both productive and enjoyable (which is also what I’m aiming for). That got me thinking about my own preparation for my conference. Here are a few of the things that I’ve done to try to make sure that my conference is as stress-free as possible, but that I also get the most from it…
- I’m giving a paper as part of a round-table discussion with 4 other academics. Fortunately I know all but one of them fairly well, and that has meant that we’ve been able to spend a fair bit of time discussing and shaping our presentation by e-mail or skype. We’ve also got a final meeting scheduled for tomorrow where we’ll iron out any remaining issues and finalize the order of presentation and our questions for participants (this is a roundtable, so we’ve spent a fair bit of time thinking about how we’ll engage the audience). Hopefully, all of that prep will mean that we can go into our session calm and confident.
- We’ll also spend some time in this pre-meeting discussing the possibility of turning our presentation into a paper for a journal. We’ve all spent a fair bit of time thinking about, reading around and writing this paper so we’re keen to get the most out of it.
- The conference is going to be huge so I’ve also spent some time going over the very extensive programme and planning which sessions I’ll attend. That has given me time to read the abstracts and choose the sessions that are most appropriate or interesting.
- I’ve also had a good look at the presenters to see if there are particular people that I’d like to hear or meet. One good tip from the blog post above is not to fill your time too much – it might be worth spending some time at the conference meeting people and having meaningful conversations rather than simply rushing from one session to the next.
- I’ve spent a bit of time figuring out the logistics – I have maps of the city and the conference venue, and plan to register for the conference the day before it starts. Hopefully that will minimise my chances of getting lost and missing a paper or of turning up late, flustered and causing a distraction. It also helps me to feel confident that the conference, including my paper, will go smoothly.
- Finally, I’ve also thought about the little things. My handout is ready, printed and sitting on my co-presenter’s desk in Helsinki so that I don’t have to worry about getting it in my hand-baggage or about getting it printed once I’m there. Given that the conference is Europe-wide, I’ve also tried to keep the language fairly simple for non-Native speakers. I’m not sure how smart the ‘dress-code’ will be so I’m aiming for smart-casual (no jeans, just in case…) – in the UK, jeans seem to be ok in my discipline, but at US conferences, suits seem to be more common for presenters. I want to feel confident, so I don’t want to feel underdressed.
Now, as long as the Icelandic volcano behaves itself, hopefully all will go well. Wish me luck!