So, what comes next?
If this is your first conference, you may be wondering how to proceed. The points below outline the steps you should take to ensure that your first experience is successful.
- Find funding. Unless the conference is right around the corner, you will need to start searching for opportunities as soon as possible. Check with your department, college, and student government association for scholarships, awards, and travel grants.
- Talk to your professors. Odds are, all of the faculty in your department will have attended a wide variety of conferences. Some may actually be attending the same one you are! Ask them as much as you can about how the process works and what to expect.
- Communicate with your panel’s chair. Typically, the chair will get in touch with you soon after the panels are announced. They may request a CV, outline, or even a full draft of your paper. May sure to check your email frequently and reply promptly.
- Register. Usually, the sooner the better. Pre-registration is usually cheaper than if you pay onsite. Some conferences require presenters to register ahead of time.
- Complete your paper or comments. You may already have a draft ready to present, but be sure to clean it up and check for errors. Since you will be reading out loud, consider changing some of the verbiage to reflect this fact. Some things that sound great on paper are awkward when spoken. Also, do not break the golden rule of presenting: Thou shalt not run over the allotted time. Plain on spending two minutes per page, at least until you can practice it with a stop watch.
- Practice reading your paper. Preferably, in front of an audience. Your department or college might have workshops or special sessions with faculty when a major conference is approaching. If not, make an appointment with a faculty member who is an expert in your field and read it for them. At the very least, read the paper for a friend. Then revise, revise, revise!
- If you wish, create a Power Point. While slides can be helpful for you and your audience, avoid these common three mistakes: 1) Long, boring paragraphs of text; 2) Irrelevant/distracting images; and 3) Too many points per slide.
- Plan to dress professionally. At conferences, the dress code can run the gambit. If it’s your first time, err on the side of caution. If it is your day to present, business attire is a safe bet. For days when you are watching panels, business casual is usually appropriate. Look for pictures on social media of last year’s conference.
- Introduce yourself to your chair and panel members as soon as possible. Not only does this make a good impression, but you may find overlap between your topics that could be useful in your presentation and the discussion afterward.And last but not least – enjoy yourself! Conferences are great places to network, learn about cutting-edge research, and share what you are working on.
- Have you been to a conference? Add your tips below!