Conferencing is one of the responsibilities of scientists. Next week The Joint Meeting of The Wildlife Society and The American Fisheries Society takes place in Reno, Nevada. If you are attending, I assume you prepared an awesome presentation and are ready to stand and deliver. But this will be a large conference with 5,000 in attendance AND up to 40 concurrent sessions each day. It’s enough to aggravate even the most experienced conference attendee. I offer some humble advice for you and in the process remind myself how to be prepared to get the most out of meeting attendance.
|Just because I'm in Reno, Nevada, does NOT mean I'm gambling. I am sciencing!|
Before the Conference
Ask yourself “What are my conference goals?” These are personal and everyone works the conference in different ways. Maybe your first priority goal is to meet Zeb Hogan, Host of National Geographic WILD’s Monster Fish television series, or Shane Patrick Mahoney, President and CEO of Conservation Visions, or J. Drew Lanham, Distinguished Professor at Clemson University. If so, don’t miss their plenary talks and make contact before the conference to see when you might be able to touch base.
Register in advance—you’ll avoid long lines at the registration check-in desk.
Print and bring extra business cards. This may seem old school but they are useful reminders that someone promised to send you their latest report. Many exhibitors will take and scan your business card so you can be added to their mailing list.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to network with those in attendance. You need to know who will be in attendance. If you just recently read a book by Scott Bonar, Jesse Trushenski, Zeb Hogan, Shane Patrick Mahoney, or Drew Lanham, bring your copy and ask for a signature.
Our career counselors always advise to “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Be sure you look good, feel good and are dressed to make a great first impression.” I purchased two brand new shirts this week.
Create a personal “must do” schedule that reflects your conference goals. Get the meeting app installed on your mobile device now. It contains maps of meeting venues, speaker list, abstracts, exhibitors, links to social media, and much more.
I can take my time before the conference to consider whether I will attend Laura Wildman’s The Dynamic Landscapes of Dam Removal - a View from Above or David Shiffman’s Publication is Just the Beginning: Using Science Communication Strategies to Make Your Research Matter. These two talks conflict Tuesday morning. But depending on which one I attend, I can contact the other presenter and meet at one of the many networking receptions.
During the Conference
Check in and dump the swag items back in your hotel room to lighten your load.
Bring a reusable drink container for coffee and/or water, notebook, pens, business cards, snacks, devices and chargers. I usually take both an iPad and paper notebook so I’m prepared for either to fail.
The Opening Night Networking Event will be held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. Have a list of must-see contacts. How will you know who is speaking? Get the app. Invite people to attend your presentation or poster and give you feedback.
Don’t miss the tradeshow—where there will be coffee during breaks and tables with all types of SWAG (=stuff we all get).
Attend the society business meeting. Find out what your society leaders are doing and how you can serve.
Take a break to refresh.
Choose your social media platform and know your hashtags. Use conference hashtags:
Social media is changing the way we do science and that includes attending conferences (Ogden 2013; Collins et al. 2016). Many science writers follow multiple platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Writer and editor Robin Lloyd says “Twitter has become basically another major newspaper for me. A lot of science writers are on it, so it’s really a great place to develop relationships and see what’s going on in our field. Don’t let anyone dismiss Twitter to you for that reason. For our goal as science communicators, it’s massively important.” (Pinholster and Hamm 2013). Even if you don’t consider yourself an influencer, you can start a conversation with a broader online audience. Public outreach on social media may quickly lead you to become a “Nerd of Trust” among your personal network of friends and followers (McClain 2017). If you plan to tweet, consider the ten simple rules for live tweeting at scientific conferences (Elkins and Perlstein 2014). Many fish and wildlife professionals will not be in attendance and will appreciate following the happenings on social media.
After the Conference
Continue the networking that you started. Add information from business cards to your contacts list. Follow up with people on promised leads and information. Say thanks to those people you met who helped you learn something new and exciting.
Give away extra SWAG you brought home. How many extra pens do your really need in that desk drawer?
Collins, K., D. Shiffman, and J. Rock. 2016. How are scientists using social media in the workplace? PLoS ONE 11:e0162680.
Elkins, S., and E. O. Perlstein. 2014. Ten simple rules of live tweeting at scientific conferences. PLoS Computational Biology 10:e1003789 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003789
McClain, C. 2017. Practices and promises of Facebook for science outreach: becoming a “Nerd of Trust” PLoS Biology 15:e2002020 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2002020
Ogden, L.E. 2013. Tags, blogs, tweets: social media as science tool? BioScience 63:148.
Pinholster, G., and B. Ham. 2013. Science communication requires time, trust, and Twitter. Science 342:1464.