Surviving Conferences

2. On Arrival

Take the time to make yourself comfortable at the venue – move into your room properly, look around, relax into it, find the dining room, bar and parallel session rooms in advance.  All this will make the conference feel like a positive break rather than a stressful merry-go-round.

Have a look around the venue for spaces that you can use for meetings during the conference, or quiet spaces that will allow somewhere to sit and reflect (or fire off that all important email that you forgot to do before leaving the office).

Cruise the ‘vendor’ or ‘project’ stands as soon as you can, before all the cool freebies are gone.
When you put your badge on, make sure that it is visible (even if you take off an outer layer or put an extra layer on). You may remember everybody’s name you’ve ever met, but not everyone can. The badges avoid embarrassing silences whilst people rack their memories for names and faces. Also make sure the badge is the right way up.

Think carefully about using the conference bag. Some people don’t because It can easily (and embarrassingly) be mistaken for someone else’s. If you do use it make sure you ‘mark’ it in someway. One suggestion is to use the conference bag from the last conference you went to, this has the added benefit of being a ‘talking’ point.

If there are other people there who you see frequently in your institution, agree beforehand that you won’t talk to them during the conference (other than to say hello). Fix up to meet back on the institution as soon as possible after the conference, and share what you have learned, and what you might do with it.



  1. Not so sure about this not talking to colleagues from home – often a conference is the only chance I get to talk to the people I work with… Now, if I only talked to them fair enough, but I think it can help to develop working relationships in your home institution too to see people in a different light, make connections that haven’t come up in your workaday world.

    Comment by Rebecca O'Rourke — September 3, 2008 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

  2. I agree with Rebecca – especially if it’s people you don’t see often at work – e.g. because they’re in a different department.

    Comment by Emma — September 3, 2008 @ 7:46 pm | Reply

  3. It can be particularly useful to personally introduce colleagues from your own institution to others you may know, especially if you have a wider or different range of contacts. You never know what ‘chemistry’ and networks can bring.

    Comment by Richard Young — September 26, 2008 @ 8:48 am | Reply

  4. I agree with Richard. One of my key roles is to bring on individuals from my institution by getting them better networked into the wider community. It is useful to meet up early on at the conference and introduce them to a few external colleagues before stepping back and letting them get on with it.

    Comment by John Peters — September 26, 2008 @ 9:40 am | Reply

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