It's Conference Season! How to Make the Most of Your Experience

by Erica Mitchell | April 15 2024 | Infection Control, Career, Conferences | 0 Comments

conference season-01Spring and summer mean conference season for Infection Preventionists and other medical practitioners! Academic and exposition/trade conferences are invaluable opportunities for clinicians, researchers, and professionals to exchange ideas, network, and stay abreast of the latest developments in infection prevention and control. However, attending a conference can be overwhelming without proper preparation and strategy. In this post, we'll explore some tips on how to make the most of your conference experience.

  1. Plan Ahead: Before the conference, carefully review the schedule, program, and list of presenters. Identify sessions, workshops, and speakers that align with your research interests and professional goals. Planning your itinerary in advance will help you make the most of your time and ensure you don't miss out on any key sessions. (If it is a huge conference, take a look at the floor plans!) Also prepare to you share your contact info, so get your business cards or create an online profile that you can easily share with colleagues.

  2. Set Clear Goals: What do you hope to achieve by attending the conference? Whether it's gaining new knowledge, networking with colleagues, presenting your research, or exploring potential collaborations, setting clear goals will help you stay focused and make meaningful connections. Make a list of the specific people or institutions or companies you want to make direct contact with.

  3. Engage Actively: Don't be a passive observer – actively participate in sessions, ask questions, and engage in discussions. It is rare to get opportunities to exchange ideas and perspectives with the leaders in our field, and conference may be the only chance you get! Don't be shy - ask and comment during sessions and approach folks directly at mixers and at poster presentations. That is why they are there!

  4. Network Strategically: Networking is one of the most valuable aspects of academic conferences. Take advantage of coffee breaks, receptions, and social events to connect with other attendees, speakers, and potential collaborators. Be approachable, introduce yourself, and don't forget to exchange contact information for future correspondence. It's ideal to have a specific question prepared for each individual, such as a follow-up to a recent publication or about an ongoing project.

  5. Be Open-Minded: Keep an open mind and be receptive to new ideas, perspectives, and research findings. Conferences are excellent platforms for intellectual exchange and interdisciplinary collaboration, so embrace the opportunity to broaden your horizons and explore new areas of interest.

  6. Take Notes: Carry a notebook or use a note-taking app to jot down key insights, ideas, and takeaways from sessions and discussions. It's incredible how much we can forget when we are in such an information-rich environment! Your conference might have an app with downloadable content, so be sure to take advantage of this before the access window closes!

  7. Follow Up: After the conference, follow up with new contacts, colleagues, and potential collaborators. Send thank-you emails, connect on professional networking platforms, and explore opportunities for further collaboration or discussion. 

  8. Reflect and Apply: Take some time to reflect on your conference experience and evaluate what you've learned and achieved. Identify actionable steps to apply new knowledge, insights, and connections to your research, teaching, or professional development. A great way to integrate what you have learned is to share your experiences with a colleague who couldn't attend.

With some planning and strategy, you can make the most of your academic conference experience and maximize the opportunities for learning, networking, and professional growth. Remember, conferences are not just about attending sessions – they're about building relationships, fostering collaboration, and advancing your academic and professional goals. So, prepare, engage, and seize the opportunities that come your way!

In our next post, we will look more closely at strategies for attending conferences with a heavy vendor exhibit presence, with tips on how to make the most of the "trade floor"!