Panels, papers, and plenaries – oh my! How to Succeed at Academic Conferences

Whether attending your first or fifteenth academic conference, it is important to consider how to make the most of your appearance. Boosting your research impact and presentation skills through presenting a paper is always a good place to start – but how else can you succeed in this professional setting?

  image credit: European Defence Agency

image credit: European Defence Agency

Conferences can range from a one-day focus on a specific topic to an international annual conference for a professional organization. However, your approach to the conference need not change much depending on the size and scope of the conference. Here are some tips for presenting at conferences:

  • If you are an early career researcher (read postgraduate) then it is important to present papers at conferences early and often. This will not only raise the profile of your research, but will help you gain contacts across the field.

  • While your presentation obviously needs to be specific to your research, try and include broader concepts and ideas that might draw interest from colleagues across disciplines.

  • Be prepared and be respectful – stick to your time limit and create a visually interesting presentation. 

  • Consider collaborating with colleagues at your own institution and proposing a panel designed around a prescient topic or theme. If you are able to secure a high-profile academic from your school, that will in turn increase the profile and interest in your panel.

  image credit: Career Addict

image credit: Career Addict

Yet, being successful at conferences is about more than strategic presenting. Attending other sessions of interest and the plenary talks will no doubt increase your level of knowledge, but equally important is networking outside of talks and sessions. Here are some useful tips for networking at conferences:

  • Conferences are a great opportunity to increase your presence in the field, and it’s important to make time to attend events where you can meet a wide range of colleagues.

  • Conference meals, book launches, and the exhibition area are all prime opportunities to engage with other professionals.

  • Prepare in advance by making a website and having up-to-date business cards.

  • Be confident in your research and your professional goals and make the most of every opportunity to interact with colleagues.

Developing and honing all of these skills is essential to becoming a successful researcher and professional in the field, while also providing opportunities for career advancement