Attending professional conferences is both a benefit and a duty for most scientists. You get to catch up on the latest developments in your field, seek input from your colleagues on your own professional projects, and get a break from the daily routine of the lab. However, with a little preparation, conferences can also be a great place to advance your professional career and increase your standing in the scientific community. Here are a few things you should do before leave for the airport, to make sure you get the take advantage of every opportunity the event has to offer.
Study the Program – Technical and Social
Read through the conference program before your leave, and determine which technical sessions, and which social events, you want to attend. Some may require early registration and payment, but others will be more flexible. Add the drop-in sessions to your calendar, so you will have the information handy when the time comes to choose what you are going to do for the evening.
Set Your Schedule
Search your address book for friends who live in the area of the conference, or other colleagues who might be attending. Contact them in advance and arrange to get together for dinner, drinks or coffee. While you want to leave some free time for spontaneous activities, you also want to take advantage of temporary geographic proximity to catch up with old friends and reconnect. A few minutes spent chatting with a colleague in person can provide more information, and a stronger connection, than many months of emails or phone calls.
Update Your Social Media Profiles
You will be meeting and connecting electronically with many new people at the conference, so you want to make a good first impression. Freshen up your social media profiles on LinkedIn.com and the ACS Network. Read them as if you knew nothing about yourself, and see if they describe the professional you currently are, including your technical and nontechnical skills and interests.
Prepare Business Cards
When you meet those new people, you want to give them a quality business card, so they have your contact information in a tangible form. Make sure you have enough cards to last through the entire meeting, and make sure the content is still accurate and complete. In addition to addresses, many business cards now include bullet points listing areas of expertise, and they often include information on both sides.
Practice Your Elevator Speech
When you meet someone new, one of the first questions they probably ask is “Who are you?” or “Tell me about yourself”. While your nametag will display your name and institution, you need to prepare an answer that goes beyond your job title, to sum up who you are and what you can do and a couple of sentences. It should be both succinct and memorable.
Conferences are a great way to not only learn about the latest scientific developments, but also to strengthen connections with existing colleagues and make new connections. By preparing ahead of time, and actively seeking opportunities, you can greatly enhance your personal and professional outcomes.
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)._—brought to you by ACS Careers.