How to Attract Attention
(of the Right Kind!) at Scientific
Meetings and Conferences
YOU’VE DONE THE RESEARCH, ANALYZED the data, submitted an abstract, and had it accepted. You have painstakingly planned and practiced your talk or poster, and are prepared to answer just about any research question that
comes your way. Travel and accommodations are complete.
Soon you will be on your way to your first conference.
You’ve taken care of practically everything. But have you
thought about your conference etiquette Yes, etiquette. If you
haven’t ‘deciphered’ the accepted codes of social behavior at
a professional meeting or conference, all your hard work and
planning could go to waste.
BY RAYCHELLE BURKS
“Treat your conference experience as an extended job inter-
view,” advises Yolanda Zepeda, associate director of academic
and international programs for the Committee on Institutional
Cooperation (CIC). From attitude to appearance, Zepeda
advises students to keep it strictly professional. “The national
community in your desired field is surprisingly small, and people
talk,” says Zepeda. You don’t want to be remembered for social
gaffes, she explains — but rather, for your research.
Presenting your research, after all, is likely one of the main
benefits you can get from attending a conference. “You get to
present your hard work to other scholars who appreciate it,”
says University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) student Morrel
Wax, who recently attended the McNair Berkeley Research
Conference. Fellow UNL student Martin Diaz agrees, add-
ing, “sharing information with others is an
opportunity to receive information and
feedback on your research area and can
also help others with their research.”
The mysterious element of etiquette
You may be surprised to learn
that etiquette isn’t just for social
events. Etiquette is for any occa-
sion that requires social inter-
action, including conferences.
Unlike social events where you
are probably very familiar with
those in attendance, confer-
ences bring together close col-
leagues and total strangers in a
professional setting. This setting
combines the professional and
the social, often leaving first-time
conference attendees wondering
how to behave.
et ● i ●quette [et-i-kit, -ket]
Conventional requirements as to social behav- 1.
ior; proprieties of conduct as established in any
class or community or for any occasion.
Making networking work
Research may be the main reason you’re
attending a conference, but it’s not the only
reason. Diaz says that another key reason
to attend a conference is to “network with
people from potential employers and with
students and faculty from other schools.”
Mark Hill, University of Wisconsin–Madison
professor, agrees: “A lot of people who go
to their first conference think they’re not