So a few days back I did a blog post encouraging all students and graduate students to attend professional conferences. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out.. click here.. Today I’m sharing some do’s and don’ts of professional conference attendance for all of those who may be considering attending a conference in the coming weeks. The spring usually kicks off the conference rush and hopefully you plan to get in on the goods this year.
As always there are some things that the novice conference attendee should be versed in to ensure your conference attendance is all that it can be. That’s where I come in.
- Register Early- Conference registration gets more expensive as the days roll on. The earlier you register the more you save. When researching what conference to attend look out for those with early bird registration rates and other perks that come along with taking care of your business early in the game.
- Emphasize Your Student Status- Most professional conferences and organizations target student populations with reduced registration fees and/or travel & accommodations stipends. If you don’t see this information published on conference websites or printed materials, make a phone call or send an email inquiring about them specifically. Organizations usually make concessions for starving students with genuine desires to attend a conference. You won’t know what’s out there unless you ask.
- Don’t Go Alone- If you can help it, try not to travel alone. These conferences can be huge and having a buddy to travel with is usually much safer and smarter especially if you’re traveling out of state/overseas. Also, having a buddy can ease the tensions of networking as well. It is often easier to approach someone you don’t know, when someone that you do know is in close proximity.
- Dress the Part- Yes, you are a student but now is the time to prepare for career that you’re aspiring towards. Most conferences have a business casual dress code for most events. A three-piece suit and briefcase may not be necessary, but a clean, polished and groomed appearance always is. I say, don’t even pack your frumpy clothes. You may meet a potential boss, professor, colleague in the elevator or at the ice machine, don’t let them catch you slippin in your cutoffs and cropped graphic tee.
- Participate As Much As You Can- If there are opportunities for you to join student panels or present your research at symposia or poster competitions, then take advantage of them. These things shine on resumes and really put you in the position for some prime networking. In your planning, check the conference marketing materials for calls for student ambassadors or to join conference-planning committees. Not only is this a great look for your resume but it just may get your registration fees waved and VIP access while at the conference as well.
- Have Fun- This is not supposed to be a painful experience. If you are dreading attending a particular conference chances are it might not be the event for you. Seek our conference opportunities that meet all of your needs and interests. Look for conferences in sunny locations and/or cities that you’d like to visit. Plan to stay an extra day and make a little vacay of it. Research planned events attached to the conference and in the local area and make plans to do as much as you can. I assure you, good times will be had!
The great thing about most conferences is that they tend facilitate a professional, but quite relaxed, learning environment. You’re joining a group of people that share a significant interest in and passion for the same thing. It’s invigorating. There are countless opportunities to extend not only your knowledge base but your professional network as well. Additionally, I’ve always had a fantastic time meeting, mingling, such at the social programming featured at the conferences that I’ve attended. So it’s basically an all around WIN! I hope you’re considering hitting us a professional conference soon. Let me know if you need any help in finding the right one for you.