Attending conferences can offer numerous benefits for a working professional. You can catch up on the latest developments in your field, seek input from colleagues on projects you’re working on, or just take a break from the daily routine of the lab. And if you invest in a little preparation, conferences can also help you advance in your career and increase your standing in the scientific community. Here are a few things you can do to capitalize on every opportunity that a conference has to offer.
STUDY THE PROGRAM. Read through the conference program before heading to the meeting, and determine which technical sessions and social events you want to attend. Some may require early registration and payment, but others will be more flexible. Also include any drop-in sessions in your calendar so you’ll have the information handy when it comes time to plan your day.
SET YOUR SCHEDULE. Search your address book for friends and colleagues who live in the city where the conference will be held. They might even be attending the same conference. Contact them in advance, and arrange to get together for dinner, drinks, or coffee. Although you’ll want to leave some free time for spontaneous activities, you’ll also want to take advantage of the geographic proximity to reconnect with an old friend or colleague. A few minutes spent chatting with someone in person can provide more information, and a stronger connection, than many months of e-mails or phone calls.
UPDATE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES. You will be meeting many new people at the conference, and you’ll want to make a good first impression. Freshen up your social media profiles on LinkedIn, the ACS Network, and other sites. Read your profiles as if you knew nothing about yourself, and think about whether they describe the professional you have become, including your technical and nontechnical skills and interests.
PREPARE BUSINESS CARDS. When you meet someone new, you’ll want to give that person a business card so that you can stay in touch. Make sure you have enough cards to last the entire meeting, and make sure the information on the card is accurate and complete. In addition to addresses, many business cards include bullet points listing areas of expertise. Also, don’t be afraid to include information on both sides of the card.
PRACTICE YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH. When you meet someone new, they’ll likely want to know more about you. Although your name tag will display your name and institution, you’ll need to prepare an answer that goes beyond your job title. Sum up who you are and what you can do in a couple of sentences, and make your pitch both succinct and memorable.
Conferences are a great way to learn about the latest scientific developments while building your connections. By preparing for conferences ahead of time and actively seeking opportunities when you’re there, you can greatly enhance your personal and professional outcome.
Get Involved In The Discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (www.acs.org/network-careers).