I am very excited to tell you that I am attending a prestigious international science conference, Experimental Biology, that attracts thousands of students and it’s being held in San Diego, California. I’m at the airport as I write today’s post, making good of my time between connecting flights. I am pretty excited about the sunny weather, to be walking in flip flops at the beach, and of course, presenting my exciting cardiac research that I’ve been working on over the past two years.
The conference, has its own hashtag #EB2016 and its own App, so attendees can effectively plan their days to get the most out of their experience – how cool is that! Yes I am guilty for searching up my poster/abstract the moment I opened the app (vain I know).
Today I wanted to share some of my tips on how I prepped for my first international science conference:
- PerfecT that research posTer to the T: I may have some OCD when it comes to editing mine, but remember to align everything aesthetically once you are satisfied with your data/content. Overall presentation also counts along with the research data you have accumulated. The time invested during this process is worth it especially when you might get to present your work to some reputable researchers in your field. I recently updated my schematic figures for my signalling pathways to be somewhat on par to what is being published in high impact journals such as Cell Press. Most of my images were created on either Pages or Powerpoint.
- Browse ABSTRACTS through the conference App: after finding yours and being excited that your name is actually in something, highlight poster abstracts that might be of interest to you or your research. Keep in if you can see any research trends or search up people you might be interested in meeting. If you are pressed for time, you can always do this while waiting for your flight.
- Select Keynote Talks/Seminars: do this the night before once you have your conference program. If you want a head start, sometimes the programs can be available online for you to print ahead of time.
- Business cards for Networking events. This is the time to promote your research and market your skills for future research collaborations or job opportunities. I have both my university-affiliated business cards and personalized contact cards that will be handed out based on the conversations I have: academic vs industry. As a PhD student, I treated myself to a nice business card holder with my university’s logo, to again, promote my research and where I come from.
- List of Conversation Starters: these could range from… a) Are you presenting a poster? b) What is your research about? c) Is this your first time attending this conference?
- Elevator pitch – this is a quick blurb about yourself: it should be 2-3 minutes long and should highlight key aspects:
- who you are
- what research you do
- where you want to go with it.
- Tag placement: it always goes on your right side because it’s the hand you shake with when first greeting someone, so it is aligned with your body movement. However, if you get a tag/badge that goes around your neck, ignore this point.
- Have fun – enjoy sharing your research with others and promoting your lab as you explore a new city!
But what happens once you are at there? Here are some things I plan on putting into practice at tonight’s networking event:
- Smile – Be Confident. You already have a research poster and got travel awards to fund this trip . . . you got this!
- Meet new people and create new connections. That means separating from your wolf pack (friends/lab colleagues). It’s ok they understand – so go get out of your comfort bubble.
- Approach people with an honest, friendly attitude and have quality interactions with your active listening skills.
- Participate: ask open-ended questions. Ask questions that will lead to more questions.
- Stance: be open and receptive. Don’t stand there with arms crossed
- Repeat names: if you have a habit of forgetting names like I do, repeating the names during the conversation makes a difference. Once someone introduces themselves to you, repeat their name back as you say, “it’s nice to meet you”. Sometimes it is easier to remember a name once you see how it is spelled, so look for their name tag/badge.
- Tight schedule but you want to continue the discussion later: this is a perfect time to request a business card or give yours. You want to be respectful of the other person’s time as well. Be sure to mention that you will “connect later on”. This creates an opportunity for a follow up with an email or connecting through social media.
With all of these tips combined, you are ready to be a networking pro.
Personally, I look forward to putting all these action items into practice tonight while I attend a student networking event organized by the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (@ASBMB).