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Career Tips

How to optimize for a conference—from a distance

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
March 4, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 7


An illustration of a person sitting a computer. On the computer's screen are four other people. The person appears to be on a video call.
Credit: Shutterstock

It’s spring, and a young chemist’s fancy turns to . . . conferences. With the American Chemical Society Spring 2024 in New Orleans right around the corner, and many other events coming up in the next few months, now is the time to think about how to get the most out of a professional conference—even if you aren’t attending in person.

Read session titles and abstracts. Most meeting websites will include session titles, as well as speaker names and affiliations. Abstracts for presentations and poster sessions may also be available to those not registered for the meeting. Reading this material can provide insights into new tools, techniques, and directions in your field, as well as research groups and other organizations working in areas related to your specialty. If you see something especially relevant, contact the presenter after the event and ask for a copy of their poster, or find out where the work from an oral presentation is going to be published.

Visit the expo. If there is an exposition, the conference website or meeting app will most likely list participating vendors. Check out the websites and product lines for companies with which you’re both familiar and unfamiliar. New tools and products are often scheduled to be released at major events, so follow relevant companies and institutions on social media, sign up for newsletters, and watch for announcements.

Attend virtually. Find out if any part of the meeting is going to be hybrid or virtual, and see if you can attend that way. Will any of it be recorded and made available after? You can also check for unofficial channels: attendees will sometimes live post, publish their thoughts on LinkedIn, or use other platforms to report in real time on both scientific presentations and social events. The conference organizers may also publish articles and videos about significant advances announced at the event, so keep up with their official channels.

Join job boards. There may be nontechnical sessions you can participate in even if you are not registered for the meeting. For example, job boards and career fairs are often open to all members of the sponsoring organization. Read the program carefully for all scheduled activities, and participate remotely when you can.

Contact colleagues. Before the meeting, find out who among your colleagues plans to attend. Ask them to bring back copies of posters, notes from specific technical sessions, or literature from exhibitors. Some companies require employees attending meetings to write trip reports summarizing what they learned; reach out for copies to review. And to gain further insights, talk to friends and colleagues who attended—take them for coffee to discuss any particularly interesting sessions or papers.

Conferences exist to inspire and inform. Even if you can’t attend in person, you can use them to step out of the work bubble and view things differently. While you may not get the beignet you would have enjoyed had you attended in person, you can still learn and experience a lot from afar.

Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published monthly in C&EN. Send your comments and ideas for topics for future columns to


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