5 Things to Never Do at a Conference
When it comes to attending conferences, there are some rules you should always follow. If you're in doubt, remember these five mistakes to avoid at a conference.
If you're looking to attend a conference this year but aren't sure which one to go to, check out our Insight into the top 5 can't-miss conferences.
1. Forgetting your poster or slides
With so much to think about when packing for and travelling to a conference, it's easy for some things to slip your mind. But whatever you do, don't forget your materials for your presentation. At every conference there is some poor soul who has lost or forgotten their poster and has to run around trying to find a print shop, or someone who doesn't have the latest version of their slides and has to get a colleague to email them over in a rush.
You don't want to be that person: partly because you'll be stressed and on edge throughout the conference, and partly because your presentation is your best time to shine and the event that most people will remember you from. Don't let people's biggest impression of you be frazzled and disorganised – remember your presentation materials!
2. Trying to do everything
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make at a conference is trying to do everything. Especially at large conferences, there will be hundreds of different talks, poster presentations, workshops, events, and other activities. If you try to squeeze in so many activities that you never have a break, then you'll end up exhausted and not take anything in.
It's good to have a busy program and to make the most of your time at the conference, but remember that breaks during the day are not a luxury – they're a necessity. Give yourself time to have a rest during the day, to eat meals, and to get enough sleep and you'll have a much better conference experience.
3. Talking for too long during Q&As
If you've ever attended any kind of academic event, then the odds are good that you've experienced someone talking for far too long during Q&A or discussion sessions. The point of these sessions is to get input from the speaker on a topic of your interest, not to show off your own knowledge. Even though you'll see senior professors doing this often, this is one habit that you should not emulate as it's considered arrogant for a junior academic to talk for too long. When asking a question, get to the point and don't talk for minutes at a time.
4. Being rude and argumentative
This can be tricky to judge, as part of the purpose of a conference is to generate healthy debate and discussion. However, you should never yell, be rude, or lose your temper during a conference. Whether you are participating in a Q&A session or just chatting casually, you should maintain a polite and professional air with everyone that you talk with.
Intense discussion is great, but avoid being belligerent or demeaning to anyone else. You don't want to gain a reputation as a pain, as not only the person you are talking to but also everyone who overhears your conversation could be someone on a hiring committee, a review board, or a potential collaborator in the future.
5. Getting drunk
Academics are often a rather socially awkward bunch, and so having a drink or two at a social event can help people to loosen up and be more comfortable. But watch out for how much you are drinking, especially at social events with open bars. It's very easy to have more to drink that you mean to, and then to say or do something that you will regret in the morning.
Being too drunk at a conference is definitely a bad look, and it is something that will be remembered. You want people to remember you for your interesting research and discussions, not for your crazy dance moves or inappropriate behaviour! No more than two drinks is a good level for most people at a conference event.