By Ruth Agbakoba
You may be thinking that this week’s blog post is a tribute to Sir Bruce Forsyth or a reminder of the classic TV show ‘play your cards right’! I know!! L “Come on down” Unfortunately and I’m sorry to disappoint you but it is not entirely. Hopefully I have succeeded in getting your attention though! In my previous post I talked about my ‘five top tips for writing a conference paper’. Now your paper has been accepted (congratulations!) and you are due to attend this amazing conference! What do you do next? Well the purpose of this post is to really highlight and capture how best to participate and gain the most value from a research conference in particular a World Congress.
On the 16th August 2015, I will be travelling to Sao Paulo, Brazil to present my research at the 15th World Congress on Health and Biomedical Informatics (Medinfo 2015). A very exciting and blessed opportunity! Having attended a few conferences both national and international I have developed a case of ‘key essentials’ that I believe have equipped me to make the most out of research gatherings. It is important to not be lax about attending conferences but humbled at the opportunity to meet like-minded people, have an insight into cutting-edge research and above all learn! I have learned from my colleagues to value each and every conference experience and how not to let the ‘good bits’ fizzle out.
The main differences between a conference and a world congress are the sheer size and scale of the number of attendees, the frequency at which the gathering is held and the key notable leaders in the field invited to talk. Therefore it is even more crucial that this experience does not pass you by but you make the most of it! So ladies and gentleman welcome aboard GPPC Airlines on FlightRA241, I have my case of ‘key essentials’ tucked away in the overhead cabin and here are my top tips which will be applicable for you as a researcher for your future ‘journeys’. For your health and safety…please fasten your seat belt…smoking is not permitted at any time…and emergency exists are to the rear of this aircraft. We will be making 3 connecting-stops along the way, please sit back relax and enjoy the journey.
- Prepare – happily do some digging into the tutorials, demonstrations and posters that spark your interest, the keynotes that you have read so much about and waited eagerly to listen to and the workshops that you would like to participate in! I usually print off a hard-copy of the programme and put an asterisk next to events for each day of a conference. This helps me to be organised and use my time effectively!
- Search for attendees – this is particularly useful if you are travelling to an international conference as an early career researcher or if you may be travelling alone because it would give you an opportunity to connect with fellow researchers within your home country before-hand and therefore you can plan so share costs on travel and other services such a food etc.
- Get involved in the action – you need to be able to fully engage and participate and one way you can do that instantly is via social media! Twitter can be a very useful tool for research purposes! You can tweet before, during and after the conference! Especially at an international conference or world congress, it is easy to get lost in the crowd and morph into ‘Where’s Wally?’ A tangible benefit of using this tool is that you are in a real time ‘conversation’ with other attendees, you may also be keeping others updated with latest events and it is a way to develop quick connections with other researchers!
Now, the conference is drawing to a close. Coming home already? What happens when you get back?
Maintaining the connections that you have made is very important in building a foundation for future research opportunities. Follow-up over time because the opportunity to attend a world congress is special and you may not have made these contacts any other way! Remember you want to gain the best value from this experience! Take on the challenge and put my ‘key essentials’ to the test.