Over the course of your PhD research, it’s highly probable that you will think about attending a conference. For some people, this might seem like a terrifying prospect. Speaking in front of a room full of people can take some getting used to, let alone sharing your research. But, fear not. The academic conference does not need to be daunting and scary. Read on for some tips about the different types of conference out there, and even how to enjoy them (gasp!).
Go along for the ride: If you’re very early on in your research, and the thought of preparing a paper all seems a little too much, then why not consider simply attending a conference? Just because you’re there doesn’t mean you have to present. You could have a great time listening to some really interesting research from people at all stages of their career. Attending can be a great opportunity to meet people in your field, share your ideas, and get an idea of how these things work without any added pressure.
Attend at your university: Often, your university will organise conferences that you can make the most of. These could offer the perfect opportunity for you to dip your toe into the waters of presenting. Your audience will (hopefully) be friendly, and ready to offer useful feedback and support. Plus, you’ll be in a familiar environment for your first attempt at presenting. Everyone’s a winner.
Join a professional association: There are tons of academic associations out there who hold annual, or bi-annual conferences geared towards their members. These are usually big gatherings, held over a few days, intended to showcase the up-and-coming research in a specific field. The itineraries of these big conferences tend to include panels of papers, so you can choose what you fancy hearing. There’s also usually some time scheduled for dinners and drinks, so you can chat to your peers. Associations often offer attendance discounts for members, which can come in very useful! (I won’t lie, conferences can be expensive things – more on that later).
Symposiums and day conferences: If a big conference isn’t up your street, then don’t despair, plenty of universities and organisations offer day conferences and symposiums. As the name suggests, these events last for a day or two, and are focussed on a particular theme. These can be a great opportunity to hone your presenting skills, while receiving some really useful feedback from an audience of researchers in your field.
Money, money, money: Now, as I mentioned earlier, conferences can be pretty expensive things. Depending on their length, you may need money for accommodation and travel, on top of your attendance fees. Before you know it, this can start to add up. It’s always worth checking to see if your university offers grants and/or expenses payments to cover the costs of student researchers attending conferences, particularly if you plan to present. If you’re fortunate enough to have your fees reimbursed, then do remember to keep hold of tickets and receipts as evidence of your payments. Of course, if it’s a day conference you’re planning on attending, you’re much less likely to have accommodation costs. These events are often quite a bit less expensive, and they usually include lunch and refreshments. Sometimes, conferences offer discounts if you’re willing to do a report or a review about the day. It’s always worth checking for what’s on offer before you go.
These are just a few thoughts on the different types of conference out there, and the ways you can attend. The list is certainly not exhaustive, and if you can think of some more, please do let me know below! In my experience, most people at conferences are friendly and willing to chat. It can seem like a daunting prospect, but remember, people have attended because they are passionate about the same things as you. They want to hear you speak, and you never know, they might even offer some fantastic feedback that helps you with your research. If you’re planning to speak at a conference for the first time, then best of luck! I’m sure you’ll do a great job.
In the meantime, should you have a paper or an article that you’re hoping to fine-tune, I’m your gal. Remember, I’m here for all of your editing, proofreading, and transcribing needs! See you next time.
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