After LILAC, I said I’d like to write a blog post with some tips for attending conferences; here are my tips from my (limited!) experience at conferences.
- Use social media (conference website/blog/Twitter) before the event to begin to find out who else is attending. I managed to find out some of the people I already “knew” through Twitter were attending and also found others on Twitter who were attending. You could even arrange a tweetup to break the ice and put a real life face to all those Twitter avatars (I tried to do this for LILAC but my flight was cancelled and I didn’t get to Limerick until late evening!).
- Read the abstracts for any parallel sessions you need to choose – fortunately, I enjoyed all the sessions I attended but there were times when the session hadn’t been what I had been expecting from the title. In future I’d definitely try to read the abstracts when deciding what to choose.
- Book parallel sessions early – my choice was a little limited at times due to them already being fully booked before I booked my sessions. In future I’d definitely try to prioritise reading the abstracts as soon as they are available so that I can book sessions early.
- Allow plenty of time for travel – just in case something goes wrong. My flight was cancelled but I only missed exploration time, if I had booked for the next day as I’d initially considered, I could have missed a lot of the conference.
- Schedule in some time to see the surrounding area if you can – I never seem to get this right. Last year I had a conference just outside Edinburgh and managed to visit my friend Jennie, but I only had a couple of hours to see her and the city and would have liked more time. This time I booked my travel as early as I could the day before the conference but due to the flight cancellation still didn’t get to see any of Ireland!
- Travel light each day – especially if you’re not staying at the hotel venue. I found that there were times I was carrying unnecessary stuff round with me all day, especially on the first day when I was given a conference bag too.
- Wear comfortable clothing and footwear – obvious one this but it is so true, you don’t want to be feeling uncomfortable during what is likely to be a long day. I tend to wear smart casual workwear (trousers or jeans), but there’s always a range in terms of what people wear. The most important point is to be comfortable (although I wouldn’t recommend turning up in your pyjamas!).
- Attend as much as you can, but give yourself rest time too – conferences are full on and can be very tiring so make sure you have some time to yourself to rest and reflect. I realised I didn’t have long to get ready for the conference dinner at LILAC, so decided to miss the last couple of sessions and instead spend time in the exhibition area and in my hotel room getting ready!
- Don’t expect too much of yourself straight after the conference – even if you promised to write a report or blog post, you’ll probably be exhausted and it may actually be better if you allow yourself time for reflection. Next time I may live blog the sessions at some of the conferences I attend, but I think as a sumarry of the conference I’ll write posts on key themes from the whole event after I’ve had time to reflect.
- Network, network, network – oh, and network. For me conferences are all about the networking. The sessions are great, but it’s the discussions with other delegates that the sessions spark that I find most useful. I’ve spoken to so many different people in different roles and with totally different backgrounds at conferences, but every single person I have talked to I have found something in common with or something interesting to talk about. It’s good practice to take some business cards with you (if you don’t have cards from work, it’s really easy to make your own with your personal email and blog/Twitter/Facebook on). I actually found they weren’t necessary at LILAC as we were all given a delegate list with contact details, but I still had some of mine in case (plus everyone loves a funky penguin card don’t they?!).
I think they’re my main points, and it rounds nicely to a list of 10 so I’ll leave it there. If you have any other bits of advice, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and if you’re looking for more tips you may find some of these posts useful: